President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday signed into law the P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021.
Duterte signed the General Appropriations Act of 2021 before some members of Congress such as Senate President Vicente Sotto III and House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco in Malacañang.
Next year’s budget is expected to fund measures aimed at improving the country’s healthcare system, ensuring food security, increasing investments in public and digital infrastructure, and helping communities cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Around P23 billion has been realigned by lawmakers for the rehabilitation of communities affected by the strong typhoons that hit the country this year.
The approved spending plan also contains an allocation of P72.5 billion for the purchase, storage, transportation, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
The government will also spend P71.4 billion to subsidize the health insurance premiums of 13 million indigent families and seven million senior citizens and P4.7 billion for the procurement of more than two million sets of personal protective equipment for hospitals, laboratories and regional swab centers.
According to the Department and Budget and Management, the top 10 departments/sectors in terms of allocation are the following:
- Education sector: P751.7 billion
- Department of Public Works and Highways: P695.7 billion
- Department of the Interior and Local Government: P249.3 billion
- Department of Health: P210.2 billion
- Department of National Defense: P205.8 billion
- Department of Social Welfare and Development: P176.9 billion
- Department of Transportation: P87.9 billion
- Department of Agriculture: P71 billion
- Judiciary: P45.3 billion
- Department of Labor and Employment: P37.1 billion
The fight for speakership had threatened to delay the passage of the 2021 budget in the House of Representatives, prompting Duterte to certify the measure as urgent and call for a special session of Congress in October.
"The prompt ratification of the 2021 national budget is a testament to our commitment to set aside divisive partisan politics. Indeed, at this crucial juncture in our history, we can no longer afford to engage in the politics of division, hate, and finger-pointing," Duterte said in his speech.
In a statement, Senate finance committee chairperson Sonny Angara thanked the President for the prompt enactment of the national budget.
"There is too much at stake in the 2021 budget," Angara said.
"The economy is set to bounce back after a historic slump this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and any delay in the passage of the budget would be akin to throwing a monkey wrench in the recovery process."
Angara also said the soon-to-be enacted extension of the validity of funds under the 2020 national budget and the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act will provide the government with the tools needed to address the pandemic.
Measure vs. COVID-19
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco hailed the signing of the P4.5-trillion national budget for next year, which he described as an "all-important measure" to help the government respond and address the COVID-19 pandemic.
Velasco himself witnessed the signing of the 2021 General Appropriations Act by President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang, along with House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, Committee on Appropriations chair Eric Yap and their counterparts from the Senate.
"The P4.506-trillion national budget approved by Congress is the biggest by far and will better position the Philippines to beat the public health crisis and rise from its devastating effects," Velasco said in a statement following the signing of the law.
"This is also a reflection of our government’s serious commitment and strong resolve to defeat the virus and bring the economy back on track," he added.
Velasco highlighted the P72.5 billion allocation under the 2021 GAA to be used for the purchase, storage, transportation and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
Another P2 billion has also been earmarked for the purchase of personal protective equipment for frontline health workers to ensure their safety as they perform their duty of treating COVID-19 patients, he added. —with a report from Erwin Colcol/AOL/NB, GMA News