Senate Pauses Budget Debates After Guest Defense Chief Catches COVID

It's Sec. Delfin Lorenzana's second bout with the virus.
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(UPDATE) The Senate on Wednesday said it was suspending its deliberations for the P5.02-trillion national budget for 2022 after a recent guest from the day before, Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana, tested positive for COVID-19.

Lorenzana, who is fully vaccinated, told reporters that his swab test Tuesday, after attending the Senate hearings, returned positive. "I am asymptomatic. I'll observe myself for several days after that I'll have another swab," he said.

The budget deliberations will be suspended until Monday to allow for the cleaning of its premises, Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said before sessions were suspended Wednesday night.

He advised those who were present in the plenary debates last Tuesday to stay at home, isolate for five days, and get tested.

The Senate was aiming to approve the proposed 2022 national budget on third reading by Nov. 25 and have it ratified by the second week of December.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said they would work double time to ensure the timely passage of the budget despite the suspension of the deliberations.

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"We will try to squeeze in on Monday even if takes us to finish until the wee hours of the morning on Tuesday," he told reporters in a virtual interview.

Sotto said the Senate is also ready to extend their session beyond the Dec. 16 Christmas break if needed to ensure that the budget is approved before the year ends.

Sen. Sonny Angara, who chairs the Senate Committee on Finance, said they introduced at least P100 billion-worth of amendments in the proposed budget to make it more responsive to the government's COVID-19 recovery efforts.

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