MANILA (UPDATE)— The Senate on Wednesday approved on final reading the country's P5.024-trillion national budget for 2022, with 22 senators voting on the affirmative on a bill touted to support the country's pandemic recovery.
House Bill No. 10153 or the proposed General Appropriations Bill next year did not have any negative votes from senators.
The proposed budget bill will then be sent to the bicameral conference committee so both Senate and House versions of the legislation can be merged.
Senate finance committee chairman Sen. Sonny Angara said the 2022 national budget will be thick with government assistance to pandemic-affected sectors like public utility drivers, unemployed Filipinos, farmers, health workers, indigents, and even hospitals and schools.
He had described the spending plan as a “COVID Recovery Budget.”
The Senate has appointed the following for the upcoming bicameral conference committee, with Angara sitting as panel chairman:
- Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri
- Sen. Cynthia Villar
- Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa
- Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian
- Sen. Pia Cayetano
- Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go
- Sen. Risa Hontiveros
- Sen. Imee Marcos
- Sen. Joel Villanueva
- Sen. Grace Poe
- Sen. Nancy Binay
Angara, in his earlier sponsorship speech, described the 2022 proposed budget as one that will continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, support education, health and employment, and will revive the nation’s lethargic economy.
Some salient points of the proposed 2022 national budget are the following:
- Department of Health – P230.113 billion (part of the budget is for the procurement of drugs, medicines and vaccines, support for hospitals; hiring and training of additional contact tracers, other health workers and improvement of laboratories)
- Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) – P20.710 billion
- Increases in the education sector (DepEd – P6.743 billion; state universities and colleges – P26.569 billion, and TESDA – P1.46 billion)
- P5 billion for the government's social amelioration program
- P25.018 billion for social pension for indigent senior citizens
- P108 million for the Integrated Livelihood Program of the Department of Labor and Employment
- P12.592 billion for assistance to individuals in crisis situations
- P2.869 billion for TUPAD (Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa ating Disadvantaged or Displaced Workers)
- P57 million for the government's internship program
- Funding support for MSMEs, fisheries, agricultural, transport, aviation and labor sectors
Angara said there are also funds for the COVID-19 testing for those seeking jobs.
"To make sure that we reopen the economy safely, we included significant funding under DOLE for free COVID-19 testing for jobseekers, aligned with a measure which we recently filed. This is in consideration of many employers who are hesitant to accept new job applicants who are unable to show proof that they are negative fir COVID-19," he said.
Angara also assured the public of the continuation of the current administration’s “Build, Build, Build” and National Broadband Plan Programs.
Subsidy will be also made available to house renters and informal settler families, he said.
There will be funding support as well for environmental protection, the lawmaker reported to the plenary.
Security agencies like the Philippine National Police and the Department of National Defense will also receive significant budget allocations next week, according to Angara.
And with the approaching elections, the Commission on Elections will receive additional funding for its hiring of additional support staff and medical personal and procurement of COVID-related supplies.
Lawmakers are looking to finalize the spending plan bill in the second or third week of this month before it will be sent to President Rodrigo Duterte for his approval and signature.
— with reports from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News