THE Budget department submitted to Congress on Tuesday the P4.506-trillion spending plan for 2021, where allocations for the Public Works and Transportation departments were increased significantly as the government hopes an aggressive infrastructure push will drive post-pandemic economic recovery.
The House of Representatives is aiming to pass the national budget in “record time” or before the end of September, and signed into law by President Rodrigo R. Duterte by mid- to late November.
“We expect the whole September that we will be busy. We will try to pass it in record time,” Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano said during the turnover ceremony at the House of Representatives, Tuesday.
“While we’re implementing Bayanihan II this September, October, November, December, we will try to finish the budget before the end of September — a very ambitious schedule.”
With the theme “Reset, Rebound, and Recover: Investing for Resiliency and Sustainability,” the P4.5-trillion budget is equivalent to 21.8% of the gross domestic product (GDP). It is also 10% higher than the P4.1 trillion allocated for this year.
The Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) in its July 28 meeting expects GDP to grow by 6.5-7.5% in 2021, bouncing back from an up to 6.6% contraction this year. Next year’s revenues are projected to reach P2.72 trillion or 13.2% of GDP, while disbursements are seen to rise P4.47 trillion or 21.6% of GDP. The deficit target is at 8.5% of GDP for 2021.
The national budget will focus on “improving healthcare systems, ensuring food security, creating more jobs by investing in labor intensive projects, enabling a digital government and economy as well as help communities cope and prevail in these trying times,” Budget Secretary Wendel E. Avisado said during the turnover of the National Expenditure Program for 2021.
The Department of Education and attached agencies still get the lion’s share with a P754.4 billion budget, 16% higher than the P650.2 billion set aside this year. This will cover the implementation of the free tuition law and the learning continuity plan.
The Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH)budget for next year has been increased by 50% to P667.3 billion, while the Department of Transportation’s (DoTr) budget surged by 70% to P143.6 billion. This as the government pins its post-pandemic recovery hopes on the “Build, Build, Build” (BBB) infrastructure program.
The DBM said a total of P1.107-trillion has been allocated for BBB projects, such as the P157.5-billion Network Development Program, P125.9-billion Flood Management Program, and P106.3 billion for rail transport development.
The Department of Interior and Local Government will get a P246.1-billion budget, up by 4%, while the Department of National Defense’s budget jumped 16% to P209.1 billion.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, the allocation for the Health department rose only by 14% to P203.1 billion. Mr. Avisado said P71.4 billion has been set aside for the National Health Insurance Program, P16.6 billion for hiring health workers, and P2.5 billion for the procurement of a vaccine for the coronavirus disease 2019 among others.
Also, the Department of Social Welfare and Development budget has been slashed by 53% to P171.2 billion next year, while the Agriculture department’s allocation fell by 6% to P66.4 billion.
More than a third of the national budget or P1.664 trillion will go to the social services sector, up 11% from this year’s allocation. Another third or P1.347 trillion will be funneled into the economic services sector, while P724.2 billion will be allocated to the general public services, P560.2 billion for debt burden, and P210.6 billion for defense.
ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Go Yap said the House Appropriations Committee will work on the immediate passage of the general appropriations bill.
“Layon nating maisaayos agad ang pagpasa ng budget at tiyakin na hindi lamang sa panahon ng pandemya mararamdaman ang tulong kundi sa pang araw-araw na buhay rin ng bawat Pilipino,” he said. “We intend to sustain our economic growth and build on our previous gains while facing the pandemic head-on.”
Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara said the Finance Committee can hold parallel hearings, provided the committee report is finalized in the plenary until the House version is approved.
“We can start the budget briefings in a few weeks as is the custom in the Senate even as the House is also tackling it,” he said in a mobile phone message.
“As required by the Constitution we cannot finalize the committee report for plenary discussion until the House has passed the budget measure on 3rd reading, usually towards October.”
The 18th Congress is working to avoid a repeat of the nearly four-month delay in the passage of the 2019 budget, which prompted the government to operate on a reenacted budget. — C.A. Tadalan