Martin (From right) House Minority Leader Stephen Paduano, Deputy Speaker Michael Romero, House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, Senator Joel Villanueva,Senate finance committee chairman Sen. Sonny Angara, House Committee on Appropriations Chairman, ACT-CIS party list Eric Yap, Senator Imee Marcos, Senator Cynthia Villar, Rep. Joseph Bernos, Rep. Edcel Lagman and Senator Ronald Bato Fe La Rosa shares a historic moment before the Bicameral Conference Committee meeting on the Disagreeing Provision of House Bill 10153 at the EDSA Shangrila Hotel in Mandaluyong. The bicam panel adopted the motion of Romualdez to authorize Yap to work with Angara to harmonize the disagreeing provisions of the national budget. Photos by VER NOVENO

Romualdez expects PRRD to sign GAB

December 6, 2021 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 270 views

Martin1Before year ends

HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin G. Romualdez on Monday said he expects President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte to sign into law the proposed P5.024 trillion General Appropriations Bill (GAB) before the year ends to strengthen government’s fight against coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) and push for the country’s economic recovery.

“It is to the best interest of our people that the 2022 General Appropriations Act be signed by President Duterte before the end of the year so as to avoid a reenacted budget in 2022,” said Romualdez, chairman of the House committee on rules, after attending the first hybrid bicameral conference committee held at the Garden Ballroom of Edsa Shangri-La in Mandaluyong City.

During the meeting, Romualdez, who attended the bicam physically, said senators and congressmen have agreed to immediately ratify the GAB next week.

“Leaders of the House of Representatives today (Monday) reiterated our commitment to ratify before the year end the 2022 General Appropriations Bill in today’s meeting with our Senate counterparts at the bicameral conference,” Romualdez said.

“We join our good senators in wishing that disagreeing provisions of the Senate and House versions of the 2022 GAB be threshed out in a week’s time. We expect plenary discussion on the bicam-approved version next week, and that the final version be ratified by the Senate and the House before our Christmas break,” Romualdez said.

During the meeting, the bicam panel adopted the motion of Romualdez to authorize House committee on appropriations and ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap to work with Senate finance committee chairman Sen. Sonny Angara to harmonize the disagreeing provisions of the national budget.

Romualdez, Angara, Yap, House Minority Leader Joseph Stephen Paduano, Deputy Speaker and 1- Pacman party-list Rep. Mikee Romero, Reps. Joseph Bernos of Abra and Edcel Lagman of Albay, Sens. Joel Villanueva, Imee Marcos, Cynthia Villar, and Ronald Bato dela Rosa physically attended the bicam meeting.

According to Angara, senators decided to increase the budget of the Department of Health (DoH) to over P230 billion.

This is much bigger compared to P182 billion that was appropriated when the House of Representatives approved the national budget.

The additional funds for the health sector include provision on the hiring of contact tracers, emergency hiring of health professionals, COVID-19 benefits for public and private health workers, and operation of national laboratories.

To help the implementation of more face-to-face classes, the Senate also increased the budget of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), state universities and colleges (SUC’s), and the Department of Education (DepEd).

Like Romualdez, Yap also said that he and Angara will work hard together to ratify the national budget next week. “Pipilitin po namin ng four days kasi kailangan namin ma-ratify ito next week.”

“Target lang namin is December 13 pero para maipasok and hopefully by Christmas, ma-sign ni President ‘yung budget,” Yap told reporters in an interview after the bicam meeting.

“Like last year, dalawa lang kami na nag-usap, pero again guided naman ako by the committee, ‘yung bicam conference namin, so lahat ng napag-usapan namin ay ika-cascade ko sa members namin,” Yap said.

Last October, the House of Representatives transmitted to the Senate 35 hard copies of the final version of the 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).

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 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).