Proposed 2021 national budget now only needs Duterte signature
MANILA, Philippines — The national budget for next year, which is seen to drive the country’s pandemic response and recovery efforts, now only needs the approval of President Rodrigo Duterte for it to be enacted.
This came after the Senate and the House of Representatives ratified the final version of the budget bill, which was the final requirement before its submission to Duterte’s office.
According to data provided by the office of Senate finance committee chair Sonny Angara, the education sector will receive P708.181 billion should President Rodrigo Duterte sign the bicam-approved version of the 2021 budget.
The education sector covers the Department of Education, State Universities and Colleges, the Commission on Higher Education, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
The Department of Public Works and Highways got the second-highest shares at P694.822 billion, while the health sector came in third with P287.472 billion.
The health sector’s funding will cover the Department of Health, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), specialty hospitals, the Philippine Institute Of Traditional And Alternative Health Care, and the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP), as well as the COVID-19 vaccine.
Other government agencies with the highest allocations in 2021 budget are as follows:
• Department of Interior and Local Government – P247.506 billion
• Department of National Defense – P205.471 billion
• Department of Social Welfare and Development – P176.659 billion
• Department of Transportation – P87.445 billion
• Department of Agriculture – P68.622 billion
• Judiciary – P44.108 billion
• Department of Labor and Employment – P36.606 billion
Angara said at least P72 billion is allocated to procure the COVID-19 vaccine. In contrast, House appropriations committee chair Eric Yap said around P23 billion is set aside for the government’s rehabilitation efforts following Typhoons Rolly and Ulysses.
Back in April 2019, Duterte vetoed P95.3 billion-worth of funds from the national budget for that year amid allegations of questionable allocations, particularly in the budget of the Department of Works and Highways (DPWH).
Due to the questionable allocations, Congress failed to pass the 2019 budget on time and the government had to operate on a reenacted budget.
However, lawmakers are confident that a reenacted budget is not likely for 2021 since Congress was able to pass the budget on time.
Yap earlier said the target was to transmit the 2021 budget bill to Malacañang for the President’s signature by December 18 or December 21, at the latest.
Nonetheless, like in previous years, there were questions regarding allocations lodged in the budget of DPWH, with some members of the House of Representatives allegedly involved in corrupt infrastructure projects.
The speakership row between Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano and now Speaker Lord Allan Velasco also raised questions if the national budget can be submitted on time as congressmen pointed out the alleged uneven distribution of funds among congressional districts.
It got to a point where Duterte certified the budget bill as urgent as he called for a special session in the House “to resume the congressional deliberations on the proposed 2021 national budget and to avoid any further delays on its prompt passage.”
Following the bicam’s approval of the 2021 budget, Yap admitted that it is not feasible to “equally” distribute infrastructure funds among congressional districts.
Yap pointed out that certain areas in the country are not included in the government’s flagship program—Build, Build, Build.
“Sa Albay, may ginagawa po tayong expressway dito, normal po na tataas. Katulad sa Benguet, mayroon po tayong nagko-collapse na kalsada even without typhoon ha, without calamity nagko-collapse ‘yun dahil mountainous ‘yung lugar na ‘yun,” Yap said on Wednesday.
(In Albay, we are doing an expressway here, it will normally increase. Like in Benguet, we have a collapsing road even without typhoon… without calamity it collapses because that place is mountainous.)
“Malabo talaga ipantay-pantay ang mga district dahil may malaking districts, may maliit, mayroong iba-ibang terrain,” he added.
(It is very impractical to equalize the districts because there are large districts, there are small, there are different terrain.)
For his part, Angara assured that there are no “pork” insertions in the bicameral conference committee’s version of the proposed national budget for 2021. [ac]