SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has renewed his commitment to ensure the timely enactment of the P5.024-trillion General Appropriations Bill (GAB) as the House of Representatives prepares to transmit to the Senate what he called a “more responsive and balanced national budget” for 2022.
“We are very proud of this budget and what it will do to help our country recover from the devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We believe the House delivered a budget that directly responds to the greatest needs of the Filipino people amid this unprecedented global health crisis,” Velasco said.
The Speaker assured that the printed copy of House-approved GAB will be transmitted to the Senate on or before October 27 to give senators ample time to likewise examine the government’s spending plan for next year.
Velasco said the lower chamber’s version of the budget measure includes institutional amendments designed to help boost the government’s COVID-19 response, as well as upgrade the assets of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) and fund state universities and colleges (SUCs) in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
The institutional amendments were vetted and approved by the five-member committee formed by the House to consolidate individual amendments on the proposed 2022 national budget as contained in House Bill 10153.
The panel was composed of Committee on Appropriations Chair Eric Yap, Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Committee on Ways and Means Chair Joey Salceda, Deputy Minority Leader Stella Luz Quimbo, and Albay Representative Edcel Lagman.
Velasco thanked the committee for “painstakingly putting together the amendments introduced by individual members in order to create the highest quality budget.”
In line with its commitment to give higher spending priority to health care, Velasco said the House is providing the Department of Health additional funding of P29.5 billion for procurement of more COVID-19 vaccines, providing medical assistance to indigent patients, and ensuring special risk allowance of public and private health workers.
The House leader said an additional P5.5 billion will be given to the Department of National Defense for the purchase of five brand new C-130J planes for the PAF.
“This will allow the Air Force to effectively fulfill its mandate of protecting the nation’s airspace, and to continue responding to disasters and transporting medical equipment and supplies during this pandemic,” Velasco said.
He said the House also set aside P504 million for the operational requirements of four SUCs in the BARMM that were unfunded in the National Expenditure Program. These are the Adiong Memorial Polytechnic State College in Lanao del Sur, Cotabato State University, Sulu State College, and Tawi-Tawi Regional Agricultural College.
“We have decided to restore the budgets of the biggest SUCs in BARMM to avert their possible closure. We are not just trying to save thousands of jobs, we are also making sure that these institutions will continue to educate and mold students into future leaders of Muslim Mindanao,” Velasco pointed out.
Under the House version of the 2022 GAB, an additional P10 billion is allocated to the Department of Labor and Employment for its Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers or TUPAD Program.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development will receive a total of P11 billion for the implementation of its Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation or AICS Program and Sustainable Livelihood Program.
The Department of Transportation—through the Land Transportation Franchise and Regulatory Board—will get an additional P6 billion for its Service Contracting Program, which extends assistance to pandemic-hit transport drivers and operators while at the same time providing free rides to the commuting public.
To fast-track the country’s digital transformation, P3 billion has been allocated for the National Broadband Program of the Department of Information and Communications Technology.
"Our intention in passing this budget is two-fold: addressing the pandemic while paving the way towards revitalizing our economy. We made sure that while there is sufficient funding for our health sector in battling the pandemic, there is also enough funding for other agencies to help create jobs, pump prime the economy, and move the country forward," Velasco noted.
The House chief maintained that the overall objective is for President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to sign the GAB into law by December to prevent a reenacted budget that could slow economic growth and hamper the delivery of government services.
“It is important to us that the national budget is passed on time to enable the government to implement programs and projects in a timely manner,” Velasco said.
He added: “We will work with our Senate counterparts to ensure that the key programs critical to our economic recovery and to our continuing battle against COVID-19 get priority funding in 2022. Together, we can fight and overcome this pandemic.” #