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Proposed 2021 infra budget trumps health, social protection, MSME aid amid pandemic — IBON

The government’s proposed budget for infrastructure projects in 2021 towers over the allocations for health, social protection, and support for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, research group IBON said Wednesday.

IBON questioned the allocation of the budget for infrastructure in the proposed 2021 General Appropriations Act amounting to P1.1 trillion while only P212.3 billion was allocated for health, P454.1 billion for social protection, and P5.1 billion for MSMEs.

“Resources for health, social protection, and production support are more urgent areas needing attention to genuinely usher the economy to recovery but are only receiving paltry amounts,” the group said in a statement.

IBON added that while the proposed P212.3-billion health budget is bigger than last year’s allocation, “allotment for facilities enhancement, epidemiological surveillance, laboratories, research, information technology, and human resource capacity management, for instance, were all reduced right when the country’s public health system sorely needs a boost.”

Senators earlier grilled the Development Budget Coordination Committee for allocating only P131 billion for the Department of Health in the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021.

Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado previously said the proposed 2021 national budget is 9.9 percent higher than the P4.1-trillion budget for this year.

IBON also slammed the government’s decision to decrease the proposed allotment for social protection “even as millions of Filipinos are reeling from massive joblessness and collapsing household incomes due to the COVID lockdowns.”

The group stressed that health and social protection should be prioritized in the 2021 budget as the government’s fiscal response is crucial to overcoming the coronavirus pandemic.

“Instead, these are dwarfed by programs such as roadworks and grandiose transport projects that are not as urgent as medical services and socio-economic relief,” IBON said. -- BAP, GMA News