Lawmakers seek higher 2021 budget for OVP to help pandemic-hit Filipinos

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Vice President Leni Robredo defended the budget herself before the House Committee on Appropriations on Monday, September 14.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 14) — Congressmen from both the majority and the minority blocs are seeking a higher budget of up to ₱1 billion for the Office of the Vice President so its projects can reach more pandemic-hit Filipinos.

Vice President Leni Robredo defended the budget herself before the House Committee on Appropriations on Monday, noting that while they try to "make do" with what they have, a bigger amount will help them expand the scope of their programs to assist different sectors.

The OVP has requested a budget of ₱720 million for 2021, but the Department of Budget and Management has only approved ₱679 million under the National Expenditure Program.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez recommended a 10 percent-increase in the OVP budget, but Baguio City Rep. Mark Go and Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite noted that the budget should either be doubled or at least reach over ₱1 billion, as the approved ₱679 million would be "too meager" for their operations.

"It would help us greatly if we are given more. That would mean we are able to serve more people and communities," Robredo said.

Robredo's office takes the smallest slice of the ₱4.5 trillion national budget that is currently under congressional scrutiny. Her office's 2021 budget is even smaller than this year's ₱708.01 million.

Camarines Sur Rep. Gabriel Bordado pointed out that it is "ironic" for the OVP to have the smallest budget allocation "in the entire bureaucracy," while it still manages to earn the highest audit rating for two straight years.

The OVP has been actively coordinating with the private sector to help address the COVID-19 pandemic over the past months.

The OVP previously launched programs which rolled out personal protective equipment, free shuttle services, and dormitories for health workers. It also purchased coronavirus test and extraction kits which were delivered to various private and state laboratories.

Robredo's office also recently launched the "Bayanihanapbuhay" platform to help Filipinos look for job opportunities online. For its second leg, they will launch within the week another initiative to provide opportunities for those from the micro, small and medium enterprises or MSMEs which earlier benefited from her anti-poverty program Angat Buhay.

Lawmakers will still finalize the 2021 budget for the OVP during the plenary debates.

CNN Philippines' Xianne Arcangel contributed to this report.