The proposed national budget for 2021 as approved by the House of Representatives has now been transmitted to the Senate.
In the final days of House deliberations on the budget, the House increased allocations for programs to enable the government to meet problems raised by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the principal problem now facing the country.
Thus the House increased the allocation of the Department of Health for the acquisition of vaccines as soon as these become available. From P2.5 billion in the original budget proposal, the amount was tripled to P7.5 billion. The amount of P2 billion was also added to the DOH’s program to enhance its overstretched hospital and other health facilities; and P300 million for its mental health program.
Added by the Small Committee which finalized the House bill was P2 billion to the budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development for assistance to families affected by the pandemic
The amount of P4 billion was added to the budget of the Department of Labor and Employment for its program of assistance to displaced workers. The loss of so many jobs due to the closure of many companies has been one of our most serious problems today.
The nation’s public education program has also been upset by the pandemic, with distance learning systems replacing face-to-face classes. Thus the budget of the Department of Education was increased by P1.7 billion for its distance learning program dependent on the Internet, radio and television, laptops for teachers and tablets for school children.
The House Small Committee also boosted the budgets of the Armed Forces of the Philippines for additional aircraft, P2 billion; the Philippine National Police, P2 billion; the Philippine National Oil Co.’s development program for renewable resources, P400 million; and modernization of the Energy Regulatory Commission, P100 million.
This record-high budget is designed to further strengthen government response and stimulate economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said. It has now been sent to the Senate, which may add some programs of its own and perhaps trim the public works allocations, said to contain construction projects that may not be urgently needed at this time.
With its expected early approval by Congress, the National Appropriation Bill should be ready for President Duterte’s signature in December, so its programs can begin in January, 2021. The Philippines, like all other countries on the planet, has been severely set back by the pandemic and it will take the whole of 2021 just to start restoring the losses it suffered this year.