Bill extending 2021 budget’s validity gets Senate nod on 2nd reading
MANILA, Philippines — A bill that would extend the validity of the 2021 budget or the General Appropriations Act up to December 31, 2022 has been approved by the Senate on second reading.
During Tuesday’s plenary session, the Senate approved the counterpart bill to House Bill No. 10373, with one senator dissenting to its approval.
If President Rodrigo Duterte signs the measure, the government would avoid having its unused funds returned back to the National Treasury. Under the cash-based budgeting system, all funds that are not obligated by end of the year or December 31, 2021, would have to revert to the government’s coffers.
The approval of the said measure comes weeks before the year ends. According to Majority Floor Leader Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, after approving it on the second reading, they are looking to pass the bill by Monday, December 13.
“We will prioritize the approval of the extension of the validity of the 2021 National Budget. Our plan is to approve it by tonight for the 2nd reading and hopefully on Monday for the 3rd reading,” he said.
Zubiri said that he would ask other senators, if possible, to extend their working hours by holding sessions on Thursday this week and next week to ensure that important legislative measures are considered before the Christmas break and the start of the campaign.
“I’m willing to ask our colleagues to extend by having Thursday sessions this week and next week to be able to finish important legislative measures before the Christmas break as we have only a few weeks left before the start of the campaign,” he added.
On Monday, Minority Floor Leader Senator Franklin Drilon said that they would support moves to extend the 2021 budget validity. However, he also warned that the government should not be accustomed to resorting to extensions due to a low obligation rate.
According to Drilon, it is important for agencies to spend funds quickly as it government spending is also a factor in the gross domestic product (GDP) numbers.
In response, Senator Sonny Angara said that it is important to extend the budget, as it would allow offices like the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Health (DOH) to continue their projects.
For DPWH, that means contractors would get paid especially since companies had to deal with COVID-19 restrictions, considering two case surges in 2021 that forced hard lockdowns in many areas.
In terms of DOH, more indigent patients may get assistance for their medical concerns.
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