House committee approves P4.506 proposed trillion 2021 budget

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 25 2020 09:59 PM

MANILA - The House Committee on Appropriations has approved House Bill 7727 or the P4.506 trillion proposed 2021 national budget without amendments.

Appropriations Committee Chair Eric Go Yap said the panel met Friday to finish the committee report and the bill. Yap said the bill is identical to the National Expenditure Program submitted by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The approval came even if the Presidential Communications Operations Office was unable to present its budget to the committee.

Yap said the Makabayan bloc, which blocked the PCOO budget, would have a chance to interpellate during the period of interpolation of HB 7727.

He said the committee report will be submitted on Monday morning, with the plenary sponsorship scheduled at 1 p.m.

The Development Budget Coordinating Committee is expected to kick off the plenary deliberations just as it did at the committee level.

HB 7727 was filed September 22 and referred to the committee on the same day.

Earlier, the Makabayan bloc hit the spending increase for the military and police in the 2021 budget.

In the weekly Makabayan Bloc Press Conference, Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said: "Tawag nga natin dito sa budget na ito ay fascist financing of military for health kung bakit kasi ang nag-increase po pawang mga military ng mga ahensiya at military and police agencies ang nakakarami dito."

"For example ang total defense budget ay mag-iincrease ng 16.6B from P189.27 billion to P205.7 billion yung spending para sa public order and safety will be raised by P6.7 billion from P296.2 billion to P303 billion," Brosas added.

Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago also said, "Palobo rin ng palobo ang mga pondo para sa mga lihim na operasyon. P12 bilyon na ang intelligence at confidential funds mula 2016 hanggang 2020, at aabot na ng kabuuang higit P16 bilyon sa 2021 sa opisina pa lang ng Presidente. Inaabuso ang mga CIE para makatakas sa mga procurement laws. Inaabuso ito dahil napakahirap ma-audit at nakatago mula sa pagbabantay ng taumbayan. "

Elago and Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Zarate both slammed the proposed new definition of savings that will give realignment powers to the president.

"Wag sanang hayaan ng Kongreso yung self-castration na i-castrate niya sarili niya lalo na 'pag i-allow yung nabanggit kanina na bagong pakahulugan ng savings na wala nang debate mangyayari ang buong 2021 ay puwede i-realign...dahil nagdeklara na siya na i-extend' yung state of calamity yung new provisions about savings ay doon nga this is an act of self-castration na 'di dapat payagan ng Kongreso," Zarate said.

Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat, likewise, hit the priorities of the government in the budget.

"Patuloy pa rin natin kinukwestyon ang paglalaan ng pondo sa iba't ibang ahensya ng gobyerno. Lalo na itong budget ng NTF-ELCAC na napakalaki at delikado kung saan nila ito gagamitin. Masasayang lamang ito kung puro militaristang pamamaraan ang paggamit sa napakalaking pondo na inilalaan sa ganitong mga di-makataong programa. Halos 300 libo na ang apektado ng COVID, hindi ito bilang na bumababa sa loob ng 6 na buwan. Dapat i-rechannel ang mga pondo, lalo na ang P19 bilyon NTF-ELCAC budget sa pagtugon sa pandemya," she said.

The Duterte administration is seeking a P4.506 trillion national budget for 2021 to focus on containing the spread and mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic while restarting the economy.

However, spending on health is only the fifth biggest expenditure, while spending on social welfare dropped by more than half. Spending on agriculture also fell.

By the numbers, the 2021 budget is 9.9 percent higher than the P4.1 trillion 2020 budget.

By departments, the education agencies top the list of those who got the lion's share of the budget, with P754.4 billion going to the Department of Education, State Universities and Colleges, Commission on Higher Education and Technical Educational Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

The Department of Public Works and Highways gets P667.3 billion, while P246.1 billion goes to the Department of Interior and Local Government. The Department of National Defense gets P209.1 billion, while the Department of Health department gets P203.1 billion or a P25.4 billion increase from its 2020 budget.

It was followed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, who gets P171.2 billion, down from the P366.5 billion from the 2020 budget.

The Department of Transportation gets P143.6 billion, the Department of Agriculture gets P66.4 billion, down from P70.8 billion. The Judiciary gets P43.5 billion while the Department of Labor and Employment gets P27.5 billion.

The National Health Insurance Program gets P71.4 billion, Medical Assistance to Indigent Patients is P17.3 billion and Human Resources for Health Program stood at 16.6B.

P6.1 billion is allocated for upgrading of equipment, laboratories and isolation facilities in the regions, while P2.7 billion is set aside for the provision of personal protective equipment to DOH hospitals, laboratories and centers.

P2.5 billion and P283.5 million will be provided for the procurement of the vaccine and establishment of a virology center.