Proposed 2022 budget allots P50B for health workers' SRA, P48B for COVID boosters

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 15 2021 06:10 PM

MANILA - The 2022 national budget will have as much as P50 billion for special risk allowances (SRA) for medical frontliners, almost P48 billion for COVID-19 booster shots, and between P15-16 billion for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). 

This was part of the report approved by a Congressional Bicameral Conference Committee reconciling the clashing provisions of the Senate and House of Representatives' versions of the 2022 spending plan.

Members of the two chambers of Congress met Wednesday Morning to approve the final version of the 2022 spending plan. Senate Finance Committee Chair Sonny Angara and House Appropriations Committee Chair ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Go Yap signed the final committee report.

“SRA, 'yan yung pinakaimportante sa amin sa House, lalong-lalo na kay Speaker. Naglagay tayo ng halos P50 billion sa SRA," Yap said. 

He noted that the SRA is a new item, which was not part of the original budget proposal.

“Wala sa budget natin ang SRA, 'di nilagay ng (Department of Budget and Management), ng (Department of Health) sa (National Expenditure Program)."

"So we have to put the SRA, dahil alam na alam ng health workers natin ano yung hirap na pinagdadaanan nila ngayon. 'Di namin pwede balewalain yung sacrifice.”

“The bulk of that is the special risk allowance saka COVID hazard pay benefits po ng health workers, kaya sila iba nagpoprotesta," Angara said.

"Wala yun sa NEP, National Expenditure Program na sinubmit ng DBM, wala yun. Yun ang tinatanong natin bakit di sinama. Issue na yun nung ginagawa yung budget. Ginawan natin ng paraan," he added.

“I think dinagdagan namin yung sa boosters. Tapos sa testing meron din doon. Tapos sa DOLE, naglagay rin tayo ng testing for yung naghahanap ng trabaho, kasi nakatututok na rin tayo sa economic recovery natin," Angara said. 

"So 'di lang yung purely health kundi, kasi 'di natin masabi kung gaano kabilis yung recovery natin nitong darating na taon."

"So dapat handa tayo either way--prepared for the worst, prepared for the best case scenario [na] mag-open up na tayo, mag-alert level 1 na tayo ng January,” the senator added.

Yap explained that the funds for the COVID-19 vaccination were split between programmed funds and unprogrammed funds. 

“Almost P48 billion po ang booster shot natin. Bakit 'di natin njilagay lahat sa programmed? Eto po explanation diyan. Papaano po, sa dami ng nagdo-donate sa atin… kung sumobra-sobra po yung vaccine natin, masasayang po yung budget natin doon."

"So nasa unprogrammed po yung iba doon... Yung wisdom doon, just in case nakita natin yung needs na kailangan natin magdagdag pa and walang nagdo-donate, pwede tayo magpa-program ng unprogrammed po," he added.

Yap said they took away funds from agencies which underutilized their budget from the previous year.

”Marami kami na-review katulad for example sa DOTr (Department of Transportation), meron silang underutilization. 'Yun yung mga programs na tinaggal namin at nilagay namin sa SRA," he said. 

Yap also said the government plans to buy six C130 military planes. 

“Sa Air Force po, C130 na worth P3.5 billion, dinagdag natin yan kasi po gusto natin dumami pa ang C130 natin, dahil ngayong may pandemic, dito natin nakita ang importance ng C130.”

“I think [itong] C130, 'di siya pang-giyera eh. Magagamit natin siya pam-booster, pang iba pang medical tungkol sa COVID-related," he added.

Yap also bared there is P32 billion alloted for state universities and colleges as they prepare to resume face-to-face classes. 

He said that they had to lodge some funds for classrooms under the Department of Public Works and Highways, instead of the Department of Education.

"Sa DepEd, meron tayong mga inayos na mga programs nila. Hinanap natin yung mga undertutlization nila, then nilagay natin sa mas kailangan. So may mga ibang classrooms na napunta sa DPWH."

"Kasi minsan, ang nangyayari, nasa DepEd lang, minsan 'di nai-implement. Sa DPWH, pinag-aralan namin yung implementation nila ng classrooms. Maganda yung performance ng DPWH in terms of classrooms, in terms of schools. So may mga schools na napunta sa DPWH.”

The controversial NTF-ELCAC, which has been accused of red tagging government critics, gets a budget of about P15 billion—a reduction from the original proposal of over P28 billion, but an increase from the Senate’s proposal of P10 billion.

“Pagdating sa NTF-ELCAC, gusto namin talaga is P29 billion siya. Kung ma-rememeber natin sa House, 'di natin siya ginalaw talaga eh. So nagkaroon kami ng compromise compromise, hanggang umabot siya ng P15 billion. Good enough para halos malapit-lapit po sa ELCAC last year," Yap said.

Angara said they plan to have both chambers ratify the committee report during the plenary sessions Wednesday afternoon, after which the bill will be printed for the President’s signature. 

He said the schedule is tight considering the length of time needed to print the spending plan.

Lawmakers hope to have President Rodrigo Duterte sign the bill before the New Year to avoid a reenacted budget.

”Matagal diyan printing takes time. 'Yung printing office, sabi nila, hanggang 22 lang sila. So hopefully... if they reopen baka ma-sign na 'yan after Christmas.”

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