The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading the proposed PHP4.5-trillion national budget for 2021.
A total of 267 lawmakers approved House Bill 7727 or the 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) on third and final reading last October 16 after the plenary passed the measure on second reading on the same day.
Only six lawmakers opposed, while no one abstained from voting.
President Rodrigo Duterte has certified the spending measure as urgent, which lifts the “three-day” rule between the second and third readings.
RELATED STORY: Cayetano apologizes to Sotto for 2021 national budget mess
The House gave its greenlight to the 2021 GAB after holding a special session from October 13 to 16, as called upon by President Duterte.
In a speech following the bill’s third reading approval, Velasco assured the public that there would be no reenacted national budget for next year.
“I congratulate all House members for their active involvement in the timely passage on third and final reading of the General Appropriations Bill. But I assure you and the President that we will not have a reenacted budget by January of next year,” Velasco said.
Reports from the Philippine News Agency state that Velasco said they will “transmit without delay” the House-approved budget bill to the Senate to give their counterparts sufficient time to examine the spending measure.
Velasco described the 2021 national budget as “an extraordinary budget for extraordinary times”.
“There is so much at stake here: our health, the economy, jobs and livelihood, food security, the education of our children, and much more. And we thank President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for taking a principled, decisive leadership in calling this special session so that the budget would get the complete attention that it deserves,” he said.
He noted that next year’s budget would not only provide the fiscal stimulus for economic recovery, but also help fund the government’s efforts to contain and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
House appropriations committee chair Eric Yap, sponsor of the bill, said the proposed budget is crucial to the country’s recovery from the adverse effects of the coronavirus pandemic as it will serve as an investment for resiliency and sustainability.
“We stand along with the budget philosophy of this administration that more than our priorities for a responsive and dynamic governance, we have to focus our resources to the most urgent priority — to reset our momentum and action, rebound for the devastating effect of the pandemic on the health and economy, and fully recover from the current and continuing impact of this crisis,” Yap said.
The pandemic has hampered opportunities for socio-economic growth and development, with many losing their jobs and livelihood following closures of companies.
“This budget carries the aspiration of our Filipino people to recover from the hardship brought by the pandemic to our livelihood and to recover the country’s economic growth. The timely passage of the General Appropriations Bill will ensure that our government, through its programs and projects, will be able to rebound, reset, and recover our lost momentum,” he said.
The proposed national budget is 9.9 percent higher than the PHP4.1-trillion appropriations for 2020 and equivalent to 21.8 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).
The bulk of next year’s proposed budget will be provided to the social services sector amounting to PHP1.664 trillion, equivalent to 36.9 percent. This includes funding support for programs related to health, social protection, and education.
The economic services sector will receive the second highest allocation with PHP1.347 trillion or 29.9 percent of the proposed budget.
Meanwhile, the general public services sector will be allocated with PHP724.2 billion, debt burden with PHP560.2 billion, and defense with PHP210.6 billion.
The top 10 agencies with the highest budget allocations include the Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Department of National Defense (DND), the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Department of Transportation (DOTr), the Department of Agriculture, the Judiciary, and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
Earlier, budget deliberations were stalled due to the speakership tussle between then Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and his successor, Velasco.
Cayetano’s move to abruptly suspend the session and hastily pass the 2021 budget bill on second reading on October 6 was an attempt to prevent any speakership takeover.
However, plenary debates eventually resumed on Tuesday after Velasco was elected by a majority of House members.
Under the term-sharing deal brokered by President Duterte, Cayetano would serve as the House Speaker for the first 15 months, or until October 2020 while Velasco would take over and assume the position for the remaining 21 months or until the 18th Congress ends in 2022.