Sotto says deliberations for 2022 budget still on track after COVID-19 threat in Senate

Zandro Ochona, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 18 2021 06:52 PM

Clad in personal protective equipment, maintenance personnel disinfect the Senate session hall and committee hearing rooms on November 18, 2021, as a precaution against COVID-19. Joseph Vidal, Senate PRIB handout
Clad in personal protective equipment, maintenance personnel disinfect the Senate session hall and committee hearing rooms on November 18, 2021, as a precaution against COVID-19. Joseph Vidal, Senate PRIB handout

MANILA - The Senate is still on track in its deliberations for the proposed P5-trillion national budget next year despite temporarily halting debates, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Thursday. 

The delay came after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who attended the Senate hearings on Tuesday, tested positive for COVID-19. The deliberation is suspended until Monday.

Sotto earlier said 5 of the senators who came in contact with the defense chief tested negative for COVID-19.

”That gives us the time for a semi-quarantine for those who would think that they had a brush with Sec. Lorenzana one way or another during his visit in the Senate Tuesday in the budget deliberations for the committee on national defense,” said Sotto.

Despite the setback, he assured the public their chamber would not pass a reenacted budget.

”We will just have to work double time -- in other words we will try to squeeze in on Monday even if it takes us to finish up to the wee hours of the morning on Tuesday,” said Sotto.

”Bibilisan na lang din 'yan medyo mago-overtime na rin... alam niyo naman kung gaano kakapal yung 4 o 5 libro nung budget eh.”

(We will do it double time and it is possible that we have overtime. You know how thick the budget is, around 4 or 5 books.)

The budget of several government agencies have yet to be scrutinized2 at the plenary. 

Sotto said some of the "heavy" load they might encounter include the budget of Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Transportation, Presidential Communications Operations Office, and the Department of Public Works and Highways. 

"Perhaps yung [Department of Trade Industry] hindi masyadong mabigat, baka yung DepEd din and the SUCs hindi na siguro masyadong mabigat. ang matindi yung DSWD, DOTR, PCOO, DPWH,” said Sotto.

(Perhaps the DTI is just light, as well as the DepEd and the SUCs. The heavier ones are the agencies of DSWD, DOTR, PCOO, DPWH.)

Sotto said they could still pass their version before the end of November and pass it to the bicameral conference committee by the first week of December.

"Yung target namin na matapos kami and the bicam in the first week of December is still possible. Wag lang magda-drag on yung bicam right now, ang assessment is a 4-day delay,” said Sotto.

(Our target is to finish it and submit it to the bicam in the first week of December, as long as the committee does not drag itself right now but our assessment is a 4-day delay.)

Sotto's runningmate, presidential aspirant Sen. Panfilo Lacsom, also assured the public as well that a reenacted budget is unlikely.

"Ito yung huling budget deliberation naming 2 bilang mga senador dahil come what may kahit anung mangyari talagang last term namin itong pareho so walang kaduda-duda na matatapos yung budget under his leadership. Naipakita na niya ito in the past kaya napakatatag ng kanyang liderato bilang Senate President,” said Lacson.

(This is our last budget deliberation as senators because come what may, whatever happens, this will be our last term both. So there is no doubt that we will finish the budget under this leadership. He already showed this in the past that's why I believe he has a strong leadership as Senate President.)

Because of the developments, the Senate is adopting stricter COVID-19 protocols for visitors including resource persons entering the Senate premises.

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