Senate unanimously approves P5T ’22 nat’l budget

Senate unanimously approves P5T ’22 nat’l budget

By Ernie Reyes

MANILA — The Senate approved on third and final reading its version of the P5.024-trillion national budget for 2022, putting the spending on track to year-end enactment.

With 22 affirmative votes, no negative and no abstention, the Senate passed during its hybrid plenary session Wednesday, December 1, 2021, Committee Report No. 332 or the Senate version of the “General Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2022,” which Sen. Sonny Angara, chairman of the Committee on Finance, described to be timely, especially in light of the recent news on the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant of concern – the Omicron variant.

Angara pointed out that the Department of Health (DOH) will continue to receive a significant portion of the national budget in order to best prepare “for the worst-case scenario.”

“May pagbabago man sa mga detalye at mga halaga, hindi naman nagbago ang pinakaadhikain ng ating panukalang budget, na magsilbi siyang pangunahing paraan para ipagpatuloy ang pag-anhon ng bansa mula sa pandemiya (While there maybe changes in the details and the allocated budget, the very spirit of our national budget is still there, which is to help uplift our nation from this pandemic),” Angara said.

Under the approved Senate version of the 2022 national budget, the DOH will receive a total budget of P226.7 billion, which is much higher than the 182.67 billion that was appropriated under the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) passed by the House of Representatives.

Some of the increases in relation to the appropriations made in the GAB, include items related to the pandemic response: COVID-19 Benefits and Compensation for Healthcare Workers; COVID-19 Human Resource for Health Emergency Hiring; COVID-19 Laboratory Network Commodities; The DOH’s Epidemiology and Surveillance Program; Operations for our national reference laboratories like the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine; and the hiring and training of 25,000 contact tracers.

Angara noted amendments to special provisions were introduced for the purchase and allocation of Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs, medicine, and vaccines for COVID-19, such as Molnupiravir.

Aside from the DOH, the approved Senate version of the GAB assured that the Education sector would receive a lion’s share of the national budget. Angara said the Department of Education’s budget will see an increase of P6.7 billion under the proposed Senate bill. State universities and colleges, on the other hand, will receive a total of P26.56 billion while the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) will get P1.46 billion, according to the Senate Committee on Finance Chairman.

“This will be particularly important as we consider the expansion of face-to-face classes to more schools across the country. Funding support will remain for our schools as they make a transition to safe, face-to-face operations,” Angara explained.

Following the approval of the Senate version of the national budget, Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III named the Senate contingent in the bicameral conference committee to be led by Angara.

The Senate members are: Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri; senators Cynthia A. Villar; Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa; Pia S. Cayetano; Sherwin T. Gatchalian; Christopher Lawrence “Bong” T. Go; Richard J. Gordon; Risa Hontiveros; Imee R. Marcos; Joel J. Villanueva; Nancy S. Binay; and Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares.
(ai/mtvn)

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