House panel approves proposed ₱4.5-T budget for 2021

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The House Committee on Appropriations approved the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021, chairman Eric Yap said on Friday. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 25) — The House Committee on Appropriations approved the proposed ₱4.5-trillion national budget for 2021, chairman Eric Yap said on Friday.

The ACT-CIS party list representative said plenary debates will begin next week.

"More work needs to be done and it is my hope that the entire budget process will not be delayed by whatever issue that the Congress may face in the coming days," he said in a statement.

The spending plan sets aside ₱1.66 trillion for social services, including over ₱200 billion for universal healthcare. Spending for COVID-19 response include ₱16.6 billion for healthcare workers, ₱4.8 billion to upgrade medical facilities, ₱2.7 billion for additional protective gear and ₱2.5 billion to buy vaccines.

However, during committee deliberations, lawmakers questioned budget cuts to the Department of Health. The agency's initial proposal was to get ₱12.5 billion to procure potential vaccines.

They also raised concerns about lower budgets for a number of agencies and offices such as the Tourism department, Vice President, Agriculture department and Commission on Elections.

The Education sector will get the lion's share with ₱754.4 billion, but officials said this will not be enough under the blended learning program.

Meanwhile, infrastructure projects under the "Build, Build, Build" program will have ₱1.107 trillion. Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said in an interview a number projects will be completed in the next six months and they will generate more jobs.

The Public Works department will have a budget of ₱667 billion, a 52 percent increase, amid questions on lump sum appropriations. Villar, however, said spending items have been identified.