Senate sees a reenacted budget in 2021 due to tight schedule for deliberations

Marje Pelayo   •   October 8, 2020   •   620

MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Vicente Sotto III expressed disappointment over the tight schedule ahead of them for the deliberation of the proposed P4.5-trillion 2021 national budget.

This was after the House suspended its session on Tuesday (October 6) without passing on third and final reading the 2021 General Appropriations Bill.

According to Sotto, they are seeing a possible reenacted budget for the first month of 2021.

The Senate President said House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano vowed to transmit the copy of the bill on November 17.

However it would take a week for the printing of copies and the senators would need to study the contents first before they can take it up to the plenary for the debates.

Sotto underscored the need to scrutinize the bill for weeks, adding that they cannot be blamed for the possible delay in the passage of the budget. 

“Hindi kami pwedeng madaliin. Barya barya na nga lang nakakarating sa mga kababayan natin tapos hindi pa namin babantayan?” Sotto said.

With a reenacted budget, the Senate leader explained that it would affect the implementation of key services and job opportunities especially for Filipinos who lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, for Senator Panfilo Lacson, it is now impossible to pass the national budget before the year ends.

Lacson explained that it would take weeks before they can tackle the bill for plenary debates and it would also take three to four weeks for the interpellations and period of amendments.

According to Lacson, there is a chance for its timely passage if only the House can transmit to them the final version on October 14 — two days before the mandated break on October 17.

He added that the Executive department usually reviews the enrolled bill for two to three weeks before the President signs the measure.

“Ang maiipit, ang mamamayan Pilipino. Hindi kami sa Senate. Kami gagawin namin trabaho namin pag scrutinize,” Lacson said.

Senator Sonny Angara who also chairs the Committee on Finance said Cayetano also vowed to speed up some of the processes including the sending of advanced copies of the bill and even shortening the bicameral conference committee.

However, the senator said the only way that the bicam could be shortened is if the House agrees to adopt the Senate’s version of the bill.

Angara also expressed concern that should the government operate under a reenacted budget next year, it would affect the funding of new projects which is essential to economic recovery amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Doon parang nagkakaroon ng spur sa economy. Nagkakaroon ng trabaho kapag may proyekto. Makaka-hire ng trabahador sa probinsya kapag may bagong pondo, ” Angara explained.

“For instance DOLE’s TUPAD (Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers) and AKAP(Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong), mabibigyan ng pondo ang mga bumabalik na OFWs, iyong mga nawalan ng trabaho,” he added.

Angara and Sotto said the Senate is open should the Palace call for a special session for the passage of the budget, but Lacson believes this is no longer necessary as sessions would just be suspended and not adjourned.

Both chambers of Congress will adjourn on December 19, 2020. MNP (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

Duterte to veto items in the proposed 2021 national budget

Aileen Cerrudo   •   December 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to veto several items in the proposed 2021 national budget, the Palace confirmed on Friday (December 25).

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said the ceremonial signing for the P4.5 trillion national budget is scheduled for Monday (December 28). The Palace official, however, did not disclose which items in the national budget will be vetoed by the President.

“Sigurado po na magkakaroon po ng veto message. Pero I am not at liberty to discuss po kung ano itong mga items na ito (I am sure there will be a veto message, but I am not at liberty to discuss what theses items are),” he said.

The education sector will receive the bulk of the budget with P708.2 billion, followed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) with P694.8 billion. Meanwhile the country’s health sector will receive P287.5 billion. AAC

Senators question funding plan for COVID-19 vaccines

Marje Pelayo   •   December 11, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon have expressed concerns over the funding for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination program amounting to P72.5 billion.

The said amount consists of P2.5 billion under the Department of Health (DOH) and P70 billion under the unprogrammed funds which will be sourced from non-tax revenues and foreign and local loans.

Recto fears that the government might not have a solid plan with regard to the appropriations needed for the vaccines and the logistical requirements as to how and where the funds will be sourced.

“So there is no plan. Whatever is in 2021 budget, kumbaga, hula-hula lang?” the skeptical Recto said.

“All of us are unclear how we will fund the P70 billion unprogrammed funds because, I’m sorry to say, what you enumerated as excess collection, given the pandemic – there is no excess in collection.”

Sen. Drilon, on the other hand, likened the P72.5-billion fund allocated for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines to an unfunded check.

“It is like we issue a check without adequate funding. Sana po hindi mag-bounce,” Drilon said.

Drilon suggested realigning the P33 billion peso supposedly parked funds in the Philippine International Trading Corporation.

Angara, however, said that the Department of Finance has already assured him that they will secure funds for the purchase of the COVID-19 vaccine.

According to Angara, it will depend on the Executive department on what to do with the said funds. MNP (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

Senate, House ratify bicam report on P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021

Maris Federez   •   December 10, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate and the House of Representatives. on Wednesday night, ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021.

The proposed budget, approved earlier in the day by the bicam, is expected to help the government’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic response and the country’s economic recovery.

Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, who chairs the Senate committee on finance, said the bicam report also focused on the government’s efforts to help the provinces and communities that are affected by the pandemic and calamities.

According to data provided by the office of Senate finance committee, the education sector which covers the DepEd, SUCs, CHED, and Tesda will receive P708.181 billion.

This was followed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) with P694.822, and the health sector, led by the Department of Health (DOH) with P287.471-billion.

Other departments and their respective allocations are:

  • Interior and Local Government – ₱ 247.5 billion
  • National Defense – ₱205.5 billion
  • Social Welfare and Development – ₱176.7 billion
  • Transportation – ₱87.4 billion
  • Agriculture – ₱68.6 billion
  • Judiciary -₱44.1 billion
  • Labor and Employment – ₱36.6 billion

The budget measure is now up for signing into law by the President. /mbmf

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