House to transmit approved General Appropriations Act to Senate before Oct. 27

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The House of Representatives is targeting to transmit its approved version of the 2022 General Appropriations Bill to the Senate on or before October 27 to give senators ample time to examine the government’s spending plan for next year, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said on Friday.

In a statement, Velasco said the House-approved version of the proposed 2022 national budget contained institutional amendments designed to help boost the government’s coronavirus disease 2019 (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).

“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 institutional amendments were approved by the small committee tasked to consolidate individual amendments on the proposed 2022 national budget as contained in House Bill 10153.

The panel was composed of House appropriations committee chair Eric Yap, Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, House ways and means committee chair Joey Salceda, Deputy Minority Leader Stella Luz Quimbo, and Albay Representative Edcel Lagman.

“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 said.

Under the budget of the Department of Health, the House has allocated P20 billion for the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines and booster shots, as well as P4.5 billion for the special risk allowance of public and private health care workers, and P5 billion for the Medical Assistance to Indigent Patients (MAIP).

Velasco noted that an additional P5.5 billion will be given to the Department of National Defense for the acquisition of five units of C-130 J for the Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief (HADR) operations of 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.

The lower chamber earmarked P504 million for the operational requirements of four SUCs in the BARMM, namely 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 said.

Institutional amendments

Other institutional amendments introduced in the 2022 GAB include the following:

-Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE): P10 billion for the Tulong Pangkabuhayan sa Ating Disadvantaged or Displaced Workers Program (TUPAD) with priorities to indigent families, informal sector families, and those under the next lower poverty level.

-Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD): P10 billion for the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS); and PHP1 billion for the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP).

-Department of Transportation (DOTr): P6 billion for the Service Contracting Program (SCP), which extends assistance to transport drivers and operators to tide them over amid health measures enforced in public transportation and to provide free rides to the commuting public.

-Department of Information and Communications (DICT): P3 billion for the National Broadband, which aims to set up a well-established network to provide faster, efficient, and equitable broadband connectivity to the country, especially for the geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDAs).

Velasco said the overall objective is for President Rodrigo 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.

Yap, for his part, said these are among the amendments introduced by the small committee to House Bill 10153 or the proposed P5.024-trillion budget for 2022, which would be “crucial for our full recovery from the pandemic as a nation”.

“After careful consideration and consultations, we have finalized the amendments for HBN 10153. As illustrated, we have appropriated additional budget to the following agencies to further enable them to swiftly, efficiently, and effectively address the needs of the Filipino people,” Yap said.

Yap said the House is committed to provide the enabling mechanisms for responsive and dynamic governance and to strengthen the capabilities of the government in addressing the effects of the pandemic.

“Rest assured that the government’s battle strategy on health and nutrition, social protection, governance, and development, are carried out in this budget,” Yap said.

Next year’s budget is 11.5 percent higher than this year’s P4.506 trillion.

The departments with the biggest allocations are the Department of Education with P773.6 billion budget; Department of Public Works and Highways, P686.1 billion; Department of the Interior and Local Government, P250.4 billion; Department of Health, P242 billion; Department of National Defense, P222 billion; and the Department of Social Welfare and Development, P191.4 billion.

About 38.3 percent or P1.922 trillion of the budget will go to social services; 29.3 percent or P1.474 trillion to economic services; 17.2 percent or P862.7 billion to general public services; 10.8 percent or P541.3 billion to debt burden (including net lending); and 4.5 percent or P224.4 billion to defense.

The House approved the spending measure on final reading on September 30 with 238 affirmative votes, six negative votes, and no abstention.

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