‘Not without hope’ vs pandemic, Senate passes P4.5-T budget | Inquirer News

‘Not without hope’ vs pandemic, Senate passes P4.5-T budget

By: - Correspondent / @melvingasconINQ
/ 05:42 AM November 27, 2020

The Senate on Thursday approved its version of the P4.5-trillion 2021 general appropriations bill (GAB), which Sen. Sonny Angara said would bring hope to Filipinos and create the path for the country’s recovery from the bludgeoning it took from the pandemic and recent natural calamities.

Voting 22-0, the spending bill was approved on second and third readings during Thursday’s session.

Angara, Senate finance committee chair, said the GAB would pour funds “into programs, activities and projects that deserve it most.”


“The amendments we propose demonstrate that we are doubling down on our commitment to respond more effectively to the pandemic, on our motivation to help more of our people struck by calamity, and our single-minded focus on restarting the economy,” he said.


“Hopefully, inside the line items of this budget, our people see that indeed there is a path out of this pandemic and recession. That we are not without hope. That we still can emerge a stronger, safer, more inclusive and more prosperous country,” he said.

COVID-19 response

Angara did not cite figures, but he said “much of the increases” that the committee had made pertain to the health sector and the government’s COVID-19 response.


He did not say which items in the original version of the GAB submitted by the House of Representatives were slashed to allow for additional funding for other expenditures.

He said the Senate had set aside a “huge amount in unprogrammed appropriations” to purchase vaccines, including the the cost of their storage, transportation and distribution.

Angara said the Senate made “significant additions” to the budgets of regional hospitals and health facilities run by the Department of Health, mainly to increase their capacity and upgrade their equipment.

The Senate also increased the funding for the government’s Medical Assistance for Indigent Patients Program to allow private hospitals to cater to more poor patients, Angara said.

More allocations

It has raised the funding for the government’s response to disasters, mainly through the inclusion of a Disaster Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Assistance Program for local governments.

The “quick response fund” of the Bureau of Fire Protection and the Philippine National Police meant for relief and rescue operations has also been increased, Angara said.

The 2021 budget includes a special provision that mandates the Philippine Statistics Authority to fully establish and implement the Philippine Identification System, or PhilSys, not later than Dec. 31, 2023.

Angara said funds have also been allotted for infrastructure projects, including the upgrading of airports, seaports and for building roads, bridges and slope protection to prevent landslides.

The Department of Education will get increased funding to purchase school supplies, equipment and printing requirements for the distance learning modules.

Congressional districts

At the House, former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano accused the congressmen who pushed for his ouster of receiving as much as P1 billion for their congressional districts under the GAB they passed on Oct. 16.

“I haven’t seen the bicam but definitely many [congressmen] received an increase in their budgets from the NEP (National Expenditure Program) to GAB,” he told reporters in Taguig City on Wednesday.

“So those who are against me, they have been increased between P300 million [and] P1 billion from the House to the Senate. That is why they are very eager to take over even before Oct. 14 because there is a budget involved,” he added.

He did not name any congressman.

Cayetano’s allegations came after Sen. Panfilo Lacson said that the P4.5-trillion spending bill passed by the House contained a “noticeable” increase in the allocations for the districts of congressmen allied with Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.

Velasco and House appropriations chair Rep. Eric Yap did not immediately respond to the Inquirer’s request for comment on Cayetano’s allegations.

Cayetano ally and Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte said there were cuts in the infrastructure budgets in his province.

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The former deputy speaker cited, among others, the P386 million removed from the House-approved allocations in the Department of Public Works and Highways for three of President Duterte’s flagship projects in Bicol. —WITH A REPORT FROM NESTOR CORRALES

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TAGS: budget, budget bill, COVID-19, pandemic, Senate, vaccine

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