MANILA (UPDATE2) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday signed the country’s P4.506-trillion spending plan for 2021 which seeks to revive the economy ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic and improve the country’s response to the crisis.
Duterte said the General Appropriations Act "attests to the importance of an active and fruitful collaboration between the Executive and Legislative branches of the government, especially this time when the health and welfare of our people are at stake."
The social services sector accounts for the largest bulk of the 2021 spending plan, with PhP1,668.0 billion or 37 percent of the national funds, said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
"The economic services sector, which includes the Administration’s flagship Build, Build, Build program, will receive the second highest allocation with PhP1,323.1 billion or 29.4 percent of the budget," the DBM said in a statement.
The infrastructure push "is expected to generate 1.1 million direct and indirect jobs and catalyze business activities all over the country," said the DBM.
"Meanwhile, the General Public Services sector will be allocated with PhP747.8 billion (16.6 percent), Debt Burden with PhP560.2 billion (12.4 percent), and Defense with PhP206.8 billion (4.6 percent)," it added.
Among agencies, the following received the biggest slices of the budget, said the DBM.
- Department of Education, with P751.7 billion or 16.7 percent of the budget
- Department of Public Works and Highways, with P695.7 billion (15.4 percent)
- Department of the Interior and Local Government, with P249.3 billion (5.5 percent)
- Department of Health, with P210.2 billion (19.6 percent higher than its 2020 budget)
- Department of National Defense, with P205.8 billion
- Department of Social Welfare and Development, with P176.9 billion
- Department of Transportation, with P87.9 billion
- Department of Agriculture, with PhP71 billion
- Judiciary, with PhP45.3 billion
- Department of Labor and Employment with P37.1 billion
The budget includes PhP72.5 billion for the purchase, storage, transportation and distribution of vaccines against COVID-19, said Duterte.
Other allocations for the health sector include the following, said the budget department.
- P71.4 billion to subsidize the health insurance premiums of 13 million indigent families and 7 million senior citizens
- P16.6 billion for the deployment of doctors, nurses and other health workers to disadvantaged communities and national hospitals
- P4.7 billion for the procurement of more than 2 million sets of personal protective equipment for hospitals, laboratories and regional swab centers
- P1.0 billion for the procurement of 861,720 GeneExpert cartridges for COVID-19 testing
- P7.8 billion for health facilities
- P283 million for the establishment of the Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines, which aims to undertake studies on novel, emerging and re-emerging viruses
- P51.56 million for disease surveillance and monitoring of COVID-19 and other similar respiratory infections
"As we look forward with hope for the coming year, let me assure the public that this administration will ensure the efficient use of resources through sound fiscal policy that will enable us to overcome the debilitating effects of the pandemic on public health and our economy," the President said.
"I cannot stress this enough: every centavo of this budget must be spent to ensure our nation’s recovery, resilience and sustainability."
Video courtesy of Radio Television Malacañang
House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco previously said that the 2021 spending plan is the government’s "single-most powerful tool" to fight the coronavirus, to help Filipinos and the economy recover from the pandemic’s devastating impact.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson had decried what he called the "mangling" of next year’s national budget, saying not even the pandemic stopped “greedy lawmakers” from prioritizing their pet projects over COVID-19-response programs.
Lacson alleged that some lawmakers preferred to have infrastructure built in their congressional districts not only to help their constituents but also to boost their personal revenues.
But his colleague Sen. Sonny Angara said the budget "will provide the government with the tools needed to address the pandemic, help our people to get back on their feet after losing their livelihood and their homes, and revive our economy as we inch slowly towards recovery."
“The prompt ratification of the 2021 national budget is a testament of our commitment to set aside divisive parties and politics," Duterte said.
“At this crucial juncture in our history, we can no longer afford to engage in politics of division, hate, and finger-pointing,” he added.
Delays in the passage of the national budget had forced the government to rely on a re-enacted spending plan for 4 months in 2019, and for a few days in 2020.
"The economy is set to bounce back after a historic slump this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and any delay in the passage of the budget would be akin to throwing a monkey wrench in the recovery process," said Angara.
- with reports from Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News
- with reports from Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News