Martin House Majority Leader and Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin G. Romualdez

Romualdez: 2022 budget OK House priority

November 7, 2021 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 297 views

HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin G. Romualdez on Sunday said the ratification of the proposed P5.024-trillion national budget for 2022 is the top priority of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco’s leadership as Congress resumes session following a one month break.

“We assure the President that the House of Representatives will immediately ratify the national budget for next year before we adjourn next month,” said Romualdez, chairman of the House Committee on Rules.

On October 25, 2021, the House of Representatives transmitted House Bill (HB) 10153 or the 2022 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) to the Senate.

Velasco assured the safe resumption of the House session on Monday, with the immediate ratification of the national budget—as well as proposals to either suspend or cut fuel excise taxes—high on its agenda.

He reiterated his commitment to ensure the timely enactment of the government’s spending plan even as he welcomed the assurance from the Senate leadership that it won’t allow a reenacted budget in 2022.

“Our commitment is to ensure that the budget bill, which is focused on getting the Philippines back on the road towards full recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, reaches President Duterte’s desk before the yearend,” the Speaker said.

The Senate leadership had earlier ruled out the possibility of a reenacted budget in 2022 even if almost half of its members are now preoccupied with precampaign activities for either reelection or election to higher office.

“We are glad that the Senate is on the same page as the House insofar as the national budget is concerned,” Velasco said, insisting that the enactment of the 2022 budget bill would be important in the government’s efforts to build back better and deliver much-needed services for Filipinos amid the pandemic.

The House passed on third and final reading its version of the 2022 General Appropriations Bill last September 30, and transmitted it to the Senate on October 25 or two days ahead of the October 27 deadline earlier set by the lower chamber.

“As soon as the Senate is done with its own version of the budget, the House will be selecting the contingent to the bicameral conference committee to help reconcile the two versions,” Velasco pointed out. “With such assurance from the Senate leadership, we do not see any major stumbling block in having a ratified and enacted 2022 national budget by December.”

Also during the resumption of session, Velasco said the House will tackle various proposals seeking to either suspend or cut the excise taxes on petroleum products amid rising cost in fuel prices.

“As we prepare for the wider reopening of businesses, we must ensure that our economic recovery will not be hampered by unwelcome disruptions, such as the unimpeded sharp rise in the cost of fuel,” Velasco said.

“Congress would like to be informed of how fuel prices have shot up so fast in a matter of weeks, so that we can possibly come up with measures that will help mitigate this emerging obstacle towards our recuperation,” he added.

At the same time, Velasco said the House is ready to buckle down to work with strict health protocols in place amid the continuing threat of COVID-19.

Beginning Monday, Velasco said the legislative chamber will fully implement its online House Pass System as part of the regular health and security protocols.

Under this system, a health officer assigned to each department and office can nominate staff members who will be reporting for work on a daily basis. These personnel can then fill out online a digital copy of their health declaration form and, after which, will be assigned a QR code.

The code will then be scanned upon entering the House premises. Only authorized persons, as nominated by health safety officers, will be allowed inside the premises.

An antigen test will be administered to those physically reporting for work at the start of every week.

Velasco assured that while cases have gone down in Metro Manila, the legislative chamber will continue to implement measures to ensure the health and safety of its members and employees.

“With the help of our hardworking staff in the Secretariat under the able leadership of our Secretary General, Mark Llandro ‘Dong’ Mendoza, House members and their respective staff can continue doing legislative work through a more convenient, but by no means less stringent process,” Velasco said.