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House approves P5.024-trillion budget for 2022 on final reading

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After close to two weeks of plenary deliberations, the House of Representatives on Thursday approved on third and final reading the proposed P5.024 trillion budget for fiscal year 2022.

Voting 238-6-0, the chamber met its target to end the budget deliberations on September 30, giving the final nod to House Bill 10153 before Congress goes on a month-long break.

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The Department of Budget and Management had said the proposed national budget for 2022 is higher by 11.5% than the P4.5-trillion fiscal program for 2021. It is also equivalent to 22.8% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Committee hearings at the Senate on the proposed appropriations are ongoing.

Non-responsive COVID-19 budget

With the continuing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, the proposed budget seeks to continue “to invest in building the country’s resilience amidst the pandemic by prioritizing funding for COVID-19 response measures, such as healthcare development and social services.”

For Bayan Muna party-list Representative Carlos Zarate, the proposed national budget for next year is “non-responsive” to the health crisis which continues to hound the lives of every Filipino.

“Ang pambansang budget ng 2022 ay hindi tumutugon sa tunay na pangangailangan sa panahon ng pandemya. Hindi nito pinapahalagahan ang mga frontliners sa sektor ng kalusugan, gaya ng mga doctor, narses at iba pang health workers na nanganganib ang buhay sa paglaban sa COVID-19 virus,” Zarate said in his turno en contra speech.

The absence of clear programs for providing assistance to those adversely affected by the pandemic, especially those from the poor sector and those who lost their employment, was also pointed out by Zarate.

“Mismong si President Duterte na ang nagsabi na magtatagal pa ang pandemya, ngunit sa panukalang budget ay hindi makikita ang pagmamalasakit sa mga mahihirap at nawalan ng trabaho,” Zarate said.

“Kung di man inalisan ng budget ang ilang programang magsasalba sa ibang sector tulad ng mga drivers, napakaliit ng itinaas ng budget pantulong tulad ng para sa mga manggagawa at OFWs na nawalan ng trabaho,” he added.

Drop in the bucket

At the onset of the plenary deliberations on the proposed national budget, Marikina Representative Stella Quimbo had said only P350.223 billion is allocated for COVID-19 response efforts for health and non-health as she cited the 2022 General Appropriations Bill drafted by the DBM.

Quimbo, an economist, pointed out that it is equivalent to only 6.72% of the proposed budget for 2022, and is only 1.95% of the 2020 GDP.

She specifically branded the Department of Health’s COVID-19 response funds for next year as “drop in the bucket.”

 Albay Representative Joey Salceda acknowledged that the more infectious Delta variant was not considered in the 2022 national budget as the said variant was not yet detected in the country when the budget was being crafted.

Still, the Bicolano lawmaker made assurance that the general principle of the 2022 national budget is acknowledging that “health is wealth.”

Top government agencies

The education sector, which is composed of the Department of Education, State Universities and Colleges, and the Commission on Higher Education, is being proposed to receive the biggest chunk of the budget, with a total of P773.6 billion.

Next in line is the Department of Public Works and Highways with P686.1 billion, followed by the Department of the Interior and Local Government with P250.4 billion.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, the DOH and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation only comes fourth, with P242.0 billion.

Other agencies that are proposed to have huge budget allocations include the Department of National Defense (P222.0 billion), Department of Social Welfare and Development (P191.4 billion), Department of Transportation (P151.3 billion), the Department of Agriculture and National Irrigation Administration (P103.5 billion),the Judiciary with P45.0, and the Department of Labor and Employment (P44.9 billion).—LDF, GMA News

Read more, click here: GMA News

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