Congress to finalize 2021 nat'l budget 'this week'; 'unimplementable' projects purged

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 08 2020 03:19 PM

Congress to finalize 2021 nat'l budget 'this week'; 'unimplementable' projects purged 1
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 — Congress is set to iron out "this week" the final version of P4.5-trillion General Appropriations Act to be submitted for President Rodrigo Duterte's signature, according to a lawmaker who was part of the bicameral deliberations on the country's spending plan.

House Appropriations Committee chair Eric Go Yap told reporters Tuesday that the bicameral conference committee is set to finish reconciling the Senate and House versions of the budget bill "this week," with a final ratification by both chambers being eyed by Wednesday.

"Bale ngayon, fina-finalize na lang namin, kasama ang Senate. Magkasama ulit kami mamaya. Fina-finalize na lang namin ang few details. Pero bukas, magkakaroon kami ng bicam ulit. Pagkatapos nun, isasara na namin. Yung report, ilalabas na namin bukas, and then sa hapon, ira-ratify na ng both Houses," Yap said. 

(We are finalizing it with Senators later today. We'll release the report by tomorrow, and in the afternoon it will be ratified by both chambers.)

Yap explained they wanted the budget finalized before Congress goes on its Christmas break beginning December 18. 

"It will depend talaga sa printing office. As we all know, sa printing office ngayon, maraming mga nagka-COVID, so skeletal sila. Kung kakayanin ng 7 days printing, papasok kami ng December 18, yung libro. If not naman, before Christmas pa rin. Maybe, December 21."

Yap confirmed that the bicameral panel took away funds from congressional districts with infrastructure projects deemed "unimplementable" in order to finance other pandemic-related programs.

"Tulad ng mga sinasabing hindi naman implementable... Kasi tulad nung mga projects na magsisimula pa lang pero ang laki ng budget, hindi naman matatapos ngayong taon at hindi naman ganun na priority, nililipat namin siya sa mga priority tulad sa HFEP (Health Facilities Enhancement Program), mga hospitals, yung mga equipment ng hospitals para ma-equip pa lalo, para matugunan ang COVID-19 natin," Yap.

While declining to say how many congressional districts were affected by the realignments, Yap said typhoon-stricken districts got more funds.

"Hindi kasi kami tumingin sa districts pero marami-rami siya. Nag-base kami talaga doon sa mga implementable at mga suitable. At nilagyan namin yung mga calamity-hit areas as promised tulad sa Cagayan," he said. 

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