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House sends GAB to Senate
THE House of Representatives has transmitted to the Senate 35 hard copies of the final version of the P5.024 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) for 2022, which contains P20-billion for the procurement of coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) vaccines and booster shots and P4.5 billion for healthcare workers’ special risk allowance (SRA).
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the national budget is on track to enactment before year-end, following early transmittal by the House of Representatives of the spending plan to the Senate last Monday, October 25.
Velasco said the printed copies of the House-approved 2022 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) were sent to the Senate two days ahead of the October 27 target date set by the lower chamber.
“In line with our commitment to ensure the timely enactment of next year’s national budget, we have transmitted to the Senate the 2022 GAB duly approved by the House ahead of schedule,” Velasco said.
“In doing so, we hope to give our senators reasonable time to scrutinize and pass their own version of the GAB as we look forward to the bicameral conference where we can thresh out and reconcile the differing provisions of the House and Senate versions,” he added.
With this development, Velasco said Congress is on schedule to send the all-important budget measure to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for his signature by December this year.
As the economy gradually moves toward full reopening, Velasco said he was “extremely hopeful that the proposed P5.024-trillion national budget will help propel the Philippine economy to a strong recovery starting 2022.”
The House chief said the importance of enacting the national budget before the start of the fiscal year on January 1, 2022 cannot be overstated.
“We cannot afford a reenacted budget, which is expected to dampen the country’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis,” Velasco pointed out. “A reenacted budget will definitely ruin our efforts to build back better and deliver much-needed services for our kababayans amid the pandemic.”
In a letter dated October 25 to Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III thru Senate Secretary Myra Marie D, Villarica, House Secretary General Mark Llandro “Dong” L. Mendoza informed that the final version of House Bill (HB) No. 10153 or the 2022 GAB is now in the Senate.
“Herewith are thirty-five copies of House Bill (HB) No. 10153 (Volume 1-A, 1-B, 1-C and Volume II),” Mendoza said in his letter.
With a vote of 238 against 6 and zero abstention, the House of Representatives approved the 2022 national budget on third and final reading last September 30.
ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap, chairman of the House committee on appropriations, said the GAB was transmitted two days earlier than our target date of October 27.
“Again, we thank our Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, Majority Floor Leader Martin Romualdez, and Minority Floor Leader Stephen Paduano for their support and shepherding this very important legislation into its passage in Congress. Rest assured that the GAB has been through the thorough process of evaluation, debate, and amendment in the lower chamber. We would also like to express our gratitude to our colleagues in the House for their active involvement in scrutinizing this year’s budget deliberation,” Yap said.
Embodying the theme “Sustaining the Legacy of Real Change for Future Generations,” Yap said the next year’s “national budget will focus on our strong and genuine recovery as a nation as we continue with our COVID-19 response.”
Aside from the P20-billion for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots and P4.5 billion for healthcare workers’ SRA under the Department of Health (DoH), the House small committee on the national budget led by Yap said the amendments include P5 billion Medical Assistance to Indigent Patients (MAIP) for hospitalization and assistance to indigent and poor patients .
Yap said the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) will get P10 billion for the Tulong Pangkabuhayan sa Ating Disadvantaged or Displaced Workers Program (TUPAD) with priorities to indigent families, informal sector families and those under the next lower poverty level as determined by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)
He said the small committee also allocated P10 billion to the DSWD for Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) that includes food assistance, food packs, transportation, medical, burial assistance, assistance to students, cash/food for work and other assistance to individuals, sectors, communities in especially difficult circumstances.
The chairman of the House committee on appropriations also said that P1 billion was earmarked for Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) that will enable each qualified household beneficiaries to enroll in two different tracks, the Micro-Enterprise Development and Employment Facilitation through technical and vocational skills training.
Yap said the small panel also provided P6 billion to the Department of Transportation (DOTr) for Service Contracting Program (SCP) under Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) aimed at extending the assistance to transport drivers and operators tide over to their “decreased income” due to health measures enforced in public transportation and to provide free rides to the commuting public.
He said they also allocated P504 million to State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) for the operational requirement of four SUCs in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), the Adiong Memorial Polytechnic State College in Lanao del Sur, Cotabato State University, Sulu State College, and Tawi-Tawi Regional Agricultural College that was unfunded in the original proposed 2022 national budget.
Yap said the small committee allocated P3 billion for the Department of Information and Communications’ (DICT) National Broadband project to set-up a well-established network that would provide faster, efficient, and equitable broadband connectivity to the country, especially for the geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDAs).
The House leader also said that the small panel gave P5.5 billion for the Department of National Defense’s (DND) downpayment for the acquisition of five units of C-130 J for the Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief (HADR) operations of the Philippine Air Force (PAF).