President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday signed the PHP4.5-trillion national budget for 2021 which is expected to boost the government’s efforts to effectively respond to the challenges of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic and provide critical measures to aid the economic and social sectors.
Duterte signed Republic Act (R.A) No. 11518 in a ceremony in Malacañan Palace just three days after Christmas.
R.A. 11518 aims to help address the Covid-19 pandemic, boost infrastructure development, generate job opportunities, and rebuild by assisting communities adapt to the post-pandemic life.
In his speech, Duterte emphasized that the budget bill attests to a fruitful collaboration between the executive and legislative branches of government especially at a time where the health and welfare of people are at stake.
“The prompt ratification of the ’21 national budget is a testament of our commitment to set aside divisive partisan politics. Indeed, at this crucial juncture in our history, we can no longer afford to engage in politics of division, hate, and finger pointing,” he said.
Duterte recognized the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) under the able leadership of Secretary Wendel Avisado.
He also thanked civil society partners for offering their knowledge and expertise in crafting a budget that will enable the country to rebuild the economy’s upward trajectory.
“I am pleased that through the budget we may continue to pursue our flagship Build, Build, Build program, revitalize our industry, and service sectors, and support our much-needed social services project,” he said.
Duterte said one of the most important allocations in the budget is the PHP72.5 billion for the purchase of storage, transportation, and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.
He, meanwhile, assured the public that the administration would ensure the efficient use of resources to help overcome the debilitating effects of the pandemic on public health and the economy.
“I cannot stress this enough: Every centavo of this budget must be spent to ensure our nation’s recovery, resilience, and sustainability. Let me therefore serve as an assurance to the Filipino people, this coming year we intend to recover as one nation,” he said.
R.A. 11518 was based on House Bill No. 7727 entitled An Act Appropriating Funds for the Operations of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines from January 1 to December 31, 2021 and for Other Purposes.
HB 7727 was principally authored and sponsored by House Appropriations Committee Chairperson Eric Go Yap along with House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, and other members of the committee.
The Senate version of the measure was principally sponsored by Senate Committee on Finance Chairperson Senator Juan Edgardo Angara along with Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, and other members of the committee.
Education sector gets bulk of budget
The DBM said the PHP4.5 trillion national budget for 2021, equivalent to 21.8 percent of gross domestic product, is the country’s largest to date, larger by 10 percent than the 2020 national budget.
In a statement, the DBM said the Education sector received the largest portion with PHP751.7 billion, or 16.7 percent of the 2021 nation budget.
“The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) will follow suit with PHP695.7 billion (15.4 percent) and PHP249.3 billion (5.5 percent), respectively,” the DBM said.
Meanwhile, the DBM said the Department of Health (DOH), which leads the government’s Covid-19 response, received PHP210.2 billion which is 19.6 percent higher than its 2020 national budget.
This is followed by the Department of National Defense (DND) with PHP205.8 billion, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) with PHP176.9 billion, Department of Transportation (DOTr) with PHP87.9 billion, Department of Agriculture (DA) with PHP71.0 billion, the Judiciary with PHP45.3 billion, and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) with PHP37.1 billion.
As for the government’s Covid-19 response, the 2021 national budget provides PHP71.4 billion for the National Health Insurance Program to subsidize the health insurance premiums of 13 million indigent families and seven million senior citizens.
The Human Resources for Health Program was allotted PHP16.6 billion for the deployment of doctors, nurses, and other health workers to disadvantaged communities and national hospitals.
Funds were also allocated for the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPEs) for hospital, laboratories, and regional swab centers, GeneExpert cartridges to supplement the fast and accurate testing of Covid-19 cases, the upgrade of hospital equipment, laboratories and quarantine facilities in different regions among other health-related expenses. (Azer Parrocha/PNA)