By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday called on Malacanang
to amend its 2022 budget submissions to Congress, saying it failed to
allocate sufficient funds for ‘essential items that will help the
country tide itself over the pandemic.
Hontiveros noted that in the proposed 2022 National Expenditure
Program (NEP), the Executive failed to allocate funds for the benefits
of health workers, cash aid for new poor families, and service
contracting, and even placed booster shots under unprogrammed
appropriations. The Development Budget Coordination Committee
presented the proposed 2022 NEP at the Senate today.
“Masyadong disconnected ang budget na ito sa realidad ng pandemya.
COVID-19 is here to stay for the next one or even two years.
Malacanang has to send an amendment and an addendum to the 2022 budget
to make sure the relief and response are at a high level,“ Hontiveros
According to the Senator, it is ‘unacceptable that the health workers
who are at the forefront of the country’s battle against COVID-19 were
not allocated, even a single centavo, for their welfare.
“Sa kabila ng kali-kaliwang panawagan at panaghoy ng ating healthcare
workers na maibigay na ang kanilang SRA, gaano kagarapal na sa budget
sa susunod na taon ay ni singkong duling, walang inilaan para sa
kanilang SRA, hazard pay, allowance sa meals, accommodations at
transportation? Bigyan naman natin ng dignidad ang ating medical
frontliners,” she said.
The Senator also questioned the lack of allocated funds for the new
poor families eligible to be included in the Pantawid Pamilyang
Pilipino Program (4Ps) under the Department of Social Welfare and
Development (DSWD). “Marami ang mga pamilyang natulak sa kahirapan at
pasok sa listahan ng DSWD na makatanggap ng conditional cash transfer
pero bakit hindi ito nilagyan ng pondo? Hindi ba’t
kailangang-kailangan ngayon ng mapapagkunan ng mga pinakamahihirap na
pamilyang Pinoy?,” she asked.
Likewise, Hontiveros flagged the absence of funds allotted for service
contracting that could support the operators of public utility
vehicles who continue to suffer income losses due to the imposition of
physical distancing and limited routes. Hontiveros has since called
for adequate support to ease the woes of the commuting public and give
PUV drivers a stable source of income.
She also expressed her dismay that the funds for the vaccine booster
shots were placed only under the ‘unprogrammed appropriations’.
“Kung ikaw ba na nagbabudget para sa pamilya mo, syempre uunahin mo
kung ano ang pinaka-kailangan. I am disappointed na ang booster shots,
na napakahalaga para mailigtas ang buhay ng mga Pilipino, ay nasa
bingit ng alanganin. Mayroon lang kung may kita o madadagdag ng utang
ang gobyerno,” she said.
Hontiveros added that there were no additional funds for the
Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to anticipate voting in the new
normal. “Wala ring inilaang pondo para sa posibleng extended voting
hours at pagdadagdag ng clustered precincts para makaboto ang lahat ng
qualified voters sa susunod na taon. Kailangang masiguradong walang
voter disenfranchisement na maganap at mapreserba ang integridad ng
Hontiveros pointed out that Malacanang should instead reduce the
budgets of some agencies, such as the proposed budget of the National
Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict’s (NTF-ELCAC), which
apparently increased by 57%. Likewise, she said that infrastructure
budgets should be lowered, and that the Department of Budget and
Management should merely ensure that there are multi-year obligation
authorities (MYOA) that will finance connective network infrastructure
in 2023 and onwards.
“As far as we all are concerned, we demand a budget that will
effectively address the demands of the time. Common sense dapat na ang
priority ay ang magliligtas ang buhay at kabuhayan ng ating mga
kababayan,” Hontiveros said.
“Hindi pwedeng sa gitna ng mga bagong variant ng COVID, ay wala kang
budget para sa benepisyo ng health workers, walang ayuda, walang
nakalaan para sa booster shot ng bakuna na magbibigay-proteksyon laban
sa nakamamatay na virus. Kapag ganito ang proposal, dapat i-return to
sender para ayusin,” she concluded. (ai/mtvn)