The 2021 P4.5-trillion national budget designed to uplift the country from the pandemic is awaiting President Rodrigo Duterte's signature after lawmakers passed it late Wednesday.
A bicameral panel of senators and congressmen agreed on a package that calls for fresh investments in health facilities. The two chambers later approved the bicameral report separately.
"Our original intent remains intact for the 2021 budget: to improve our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, to assist those not only stricken by calamities but also by poverty, disease and homelessness," said Sen. Sonny Angara, who sponsored the budget bill in the Senate.
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the budget "reflects the serious commitment of the Duterte government to defeat COVID-19 and bring the economy back on track." The budget includes P70 billion for the purchase, storage, transportation and distribution of vaccines, he said.
Lawmakers also increased the calamity fund for 2021 to "respond and save more lives in the face of national disasters," Angara said. The Philippines in November endured two strong typhoons, Rolly (Goni) and Ulysses (Vamco).
Sen. Panfilo Lacson was the lone senator who voted against the bicameral report on the budget. He questioned the increase in the public works budget and "redundant" allocations for the construction of multi-purpose halls during the pandemic.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan voted "with reservations" for the 2021 budget. he said health and economic stimulus should have gotten more funding compared to security and infrastructure.
"We regret that a number of significant items are still biased towards pre-COVID priorities," he said.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said officials responsible for the vaccine program were unable to provide enough details.
"It's a herculean task. If you want normalcy, if you want to go back to confidence in the economy... then everything must be done to address the health concern," he said.
Here are the allocations per agency:
- Department of Education - P708.18 billion
- Department of Public Works and Highways - P694.82 billion
- Department of Health - P287.47 billion
- Department of the Interior and Local Government - P247.50 billion
- Department of National Defense - P205.47 billion
- Department of Social Welfare and Development - P176.65 billion
- Department of Transportation - P87.44 billion
- Department of Agriculture - P68.62 billion
- Judiciary - P44.10 billion
- Department of Labor and Employmen - P36.60 billion
The budget also include the following, geared towards recovery from COVID, according to ACTS-CIS party list Rep. Eric Go Yap, who chairs the House budget-writing committee:
- Additional P44.8 billion for the “Build, Build, Build” under the DPWH
- Additional P2 billion for the procurement of personal protective equipment
- Additional P434.4 million for the health department's Health Facilities Enhancement Program
- Additional P462 million for the DOH’s Medical Health Assistance Program
- Additional P100 million for the DOH's mental health program
- Additional P3.177 billion for DOLE, mainly to help displaced workers.