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Cayetano instructs House leaders to work with Palace on 2021 budget responsive to post-2019-COVID situation

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has instructed House leaders to work with Malacañang in crafting the proposed 2021 national budget that would contain “provisions on a post-COVID-19 situation.”

Upon Cayetano’s instructions, Deputy Speaker Luis Raymond Villafuerte and House Committee on Appropriations chair Eric Yap will be meeting with Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado on Wednesday to discuss the proposed budget for next year, according to a statement from the Speaker's office.

Cayetano has said that the House and Department of Budget and Management were going for a smoother process for the preparation and approval of the national budget by working closely with each other.

“That is what we want to do and that is what Budget Secretary Avisado wants to do – even before the President submits the budget to Congress, there is consultation with the proper committees of both the House and the Senate, instead of them preparing it and the House revising it and the Senate doing its own revision,” he said.

The approval of the budget will be smoother and faster “if we can do the budget together,” he added.

Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) had proposed a spending program of P4.6 trillion for next year, an increase of P500 billion from this year's budget.

However, House Committee on Ways and Means chair Joey Salceda said the DBCC proposal may need to be trimmed down due to the expected decrease in revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Salceda said during the virtual meeting of the House Defeat COVID-19 committee on Tuesday that he was looking “at an increase in the budget of 5-6 percent, instead of DBCC’s 10-11 percent.”

“Minus inflation of 2.5 percent, we can still grow by up to 3 percent,” he added.

According to Salceda, the Department of Finance sees lower revenue collections this year as most businesses have temporarily halted their operations following the 45-day enhanced community quarantine in Luzon.

Villafuerte, meanwhile, said Congress, the DBCC and the DBM need to do a "reprioritization" of the proposed 2021 budget to focus spending on COVID-19 pandemic responses.

“For Congress, definitely the investments would continue to be on infrastructure and health. We will have to prioritize health because of the situation,” he said.

Villafuerte, however, does not think Congress and the Duterte administration should consider a budget lower than the DBCC's proposal.

He said the House could adopt the P4.6 trillion budget proposal of the DBCC and the government could just borrow money to fill the expected bigger shortfall.

“We are in a good fiscal position. We can borrow money. We are bankable. I think we can stick to that budget based on a reprioritization,” Villafuerte said. — Erwin Colcol/RSJ, GMA News