Senate passes P4.5-T 2021 national budget; zeroes in on COVID-19 response

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 26 2020 11:52 AM | Updated as of Nov 26 2020 02:20 PM


MANILA (UPDATE) - The Senate on Thursday passed on final reading the P4.5-trillion 2021 national budget, with the "single-minded focus on restarting the economy" in the wake of recent calamities and the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

All 22 senators present in plenary voted in favor of passing the 2021 General Appropriations Bill a month ahead of the year-end deadline before the current spending law expires.

"Hopefully, inside the line items of this budget, our people see that indeed there is a path out of this pandemic and recession and that we are not without hope," Senate Committee on Finance chair Sen. Sonny Angara said in plenary.

Among the amendments the Senate included in the 2021 spending bill are as follows:
 HEALTH

  •  increased funding for COVID-19 vaccines
  •  funding for continued contact tracing operations
  •  increased funding for the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM)
  •  additions to the budgets of regional public hospitals to allow them to increase bed capacity and upgrade equipment and facilities
  •  funding for medical assistance to indigent patients
  •  increases towards the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases (heart disease, stroke, cancer and mental health conditions)
  •  funding to strengthen medical schools

ENERGY

  •  increased funding for the Electric Cooperatives Emergency and Resiliency Fund (ECERF)

SOCIAL WELFARE

  •  increased funding for the Department of Social Welfare and Development's Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS) program
  •  funding to speed up the rollout of the National ID System

AGRICULTURE

  •  funding for cacao or coffee planting and processing equipment in 22 coconut-producing areas
  •  funding for a dairy goat project
  •  increased funding for the titling of agricultural land

 TOURISM

  •  funding to mount the World Championship of the World Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation (WEKAF) in Cebu City

 INFRASTRUCTURE

  •  funding for the repair of airports, ports, bridges and other infrastructure damaged by typhoons and landslides

LABOR

  •  additional funding for cash aid for displaced workers
  •  additional funding for the government internship program 
  •  additional funding for scholarship programs of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA)

TRADE AND INDUSTRY
 

  •  provision mandating government to procure relief and feeding program items directly from farmers, fisherfolk and cooperatives

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

  •  wider coverage of the Financial Assistance to LGUs to allow them to fund "assistance programs and projects for education, health, and social protection in light of the COVID-19 pandemic"

EDUCATION

  •  increased funding for equipment to meet printing requirements for class modules
  •  funding for solar panels for schools
  •  funding to construct more National Child Development Centers (NCDCs)
  •  increased funding for the Philippine Science High School (PSHS) system
  •  transportation and teaching aid allowance for Alternative Learning System (ALS) teachers
  •  funding for the development, reproduction, and delivery of learning modules
  •  funding for quality assurance of learning modules
  •  additional funding for Commission on Higher Education scholarships

 TRANSPORTATION

  •  funding for enforcement of health protocols in transport terminals
  •  funding for inclusion of active forms of transportation
  •  funding for the construction and repair of facilities that would make establishments more accessible to senior citizens and Persons with Disabilities

 PEACE AND ORDER

  •  initial funding for the establishment of the Philippine Judicial Marshal Service
  •  higher operational budget for the Philippine National Police Maritime group
  •  additional budget for the upgrade of the ICT capabilities of the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Division
  •  increased funding for the PNP Internal Affairs Service
  •  increased funding for the Commission on Human Rights

 ARTS, CULTURE, SPORTS

  •  funding for the Asia Pacific Performing Arts Network (APPAN)
  •  increased funding for trainings, seminars, and workshops for certain sports like bowling and arnis
  •  increased training budgets of national athletes competing in international competitions such as the Olympics and the Southeast Asian Games

"Bagaman may pagbabago tayong isinasagawa, nananatili pa rin ang
adhikain... na ang pambansang badyet ay badyet ng pagbangon, ang
pinaka-stratehiya natin para umahon mula sa bigat at hirap ng nakaraang taon," Angara said.

(While changes were made, the goal of making our budget a budget for rebuilding remains as our main strategy to rise from last year's challenges.)

"The amendments we propose demonstrate that we are doubling-down on our commitment to respond more effectively to the pandemic, on our motivation to help more of our people struck by calamity, and our single-minded focus on restarting the economy," he said.

The bicameral conference hearing to settle different provisions espoused by the Senate and the House of Representatives are expected to begin next week.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier said that Congress hopes to submit the 2021 spending bill for President Rodrigo Duterte's signature before the legislative branch goes on a break by mid-December.

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