Agusan del Norte Rep. Lawrence “Law” Fortun expressed hope Saturday that the proposed P4.056-trillion national budget for 2021 will be transmitted to President Duterte for his signature before the year ends.
The opposition lawmaker said he is counting on that the bicameral conference panel will be able to address the budget cuts in key implementing agencies, such as the Department of Health (DoH), Department of Education (DepEd), and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) before it transmits the spending measure to the Chief Executive on or before Dec. 31.
“There are flaws in the proposed budget as what came out in the debates. There is still a chance to address the issues such as the substantial deficiencies in the DoH budget for COVID-19 response, the considerable inadequacy of the DepEd’s budget for self-learning modules, and the hefty cut in the appropriations for the DSWD, to mention some. The small committee, and later, the Bicameral Conference Committee, should address these critical concerns,” he said in a statement.
He welcomed the House of Representatives’ passage of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) on third and final reading Friday night under the leadership of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.
“Before the year ends, the House should be ready for the bicameral conference to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the budget bill, ratify the approved reconciled bill, and send it swiftly to Malacañang for signature of President Rodrigo Duterte,” Fortun said.
After four days of marathon deliberations, the House, voting 275-6 with no abstention, approved the House Bill No. 7727 or the 2021 GAB.
“It is not a perfect budget and we may not agree with certain items therein, but we are thankful that it has been promptly approved by the House,” Fortun said.
“We are certain now that we won’t be operating on a reenacted budget in 2021. Otherwise, we would be in a quandary as the same would not be responsive to the demands to curb the pandemic and mitigate its harsh impact on the country,” he said.
He expressed gratitude to the new House leadership for reverting the proposed 2021 national budget to the period of sponsorship and debates.
“That gave us in the Minority further opportunity to interpellate on important items of the budget especially those of departments and agencies that play critical roles in the COVID-19 response,” he said.
“The sudden termination of the plenary debates and the hasty approval on Second Reading last Oct. 6 was anomalous. We were prompted in the Minority to continue with our own deliberations consistent with our role as fiscalizers to ensure transparency and accountability in the utilization of public funds,” Fortun said.