House sends 2021 budget bill to Senate ahead of deadline

Katrina Domingo and Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 27 2020 11:52 AM | Updated as of Oct 27 2020 08:13 PM

The House of Representatives will transmit Tuesday its version of the P4.506-trillion 2021 General Appropriations Bill to the Senate, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA (UPDATE 3) — The Senate has received the House of Representatives' version of the P4.506-trillion 2021 General Appropriations Bill on Tuesday, a day ahead of the promised date.

The spending bill was turned over to the Senate's Legislative Budget Research and Monitoring Office, according to information from the Office of Senate Committee on Finance chair Sen. Sonny Angara.

"I wish to thank and congratulate Speaker Lord Velasco for the swift transmission. It’s even one day ahead of my original request that they send it on the 28th," Senate President Vicente Sotto III told reporters in a text message.

Velasco, installed just two weeks ago as House leader, earlier said he and Senate President Vicente Sotto III agreed on an Oct. 28 deadline.

"This record-high budget was designed to further strengthen government response and stimulate economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic," Velasco said in a statement.

"We increased the allocation for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines by more than three-fold to cover more Filipinos. We also provided extra allocation for the facilities enhancement program of the Department of Health to help improve the country’s health care system."

"This shows that all the members of Congress are cognizant of the need to approve the budget on time, now more than ever because of the challenges our country is facing due to the pandemic," Angara said in a statement.

"This gives us time to go over the amendments made to the NEP (National Expenditure Program)... This also gives us greater confidence in being able to pass the 2021 national budget in December and leave the President with enough time to go over the bill and sign it before the year ends," he said.

Angara said he plans to sponsor the 2021 budget in the Senate plenary on November 10, a day after the Senate resumes its session.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who earlier flagged possible insertions from House members, said he would begin perusing the House version of the national spending bill.

"Regardless of the constitutional issues involving the House, it is still good that the Senate has enough time to approve our own version," Lacson said in a statement.

House lawmakers passed the 2021 budget on final reading last Oct. 17, after President Rodrigo Duterte certified it as urgent and just days following Velasco's election and the removal of Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano as Speaker. 

The House transmitted the spending measure to the Senate about 2 weeks after its final approval after the chamber allowed its members to amend several portions of the bill that was already approved on final reading in plenary.

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— With a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News