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Duterte signs 2021 national budget

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte on Monday signed into law the P4.5-trillion national budget, which will focus on supporting the economy’s recovery from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

At the signing ceremony in Malacañang on Monday, Mr. Duterte assured “every centavo of this budget will be spent to ensure the nation’s recovery, resilience and sustainability.”

“This coming year we will recover as one nation,” he added.

The P4.506-trillion spending plan is the largest to date and was ratified by Congress on Dec. 9. It is 10% higher than this year’s P4.1-trillion national budget.

In his speech, Mr. Duterte highlighted the P72.5 billion set aside for the purchase, storage, transport, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

He also emphasized the need to continue the aggressive infrastructure program, which the government hopes will drive economic recovery in 2021.

Palace Spokesperson Harry L. Roque on Sunday said Mr. Duterte vetoed portions of the national budget but there was no mention during the signing ceremony.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives will continue to be on the lookout to ensure that there are no unfinished programs or unused funds under the 2021 spending plan, a key legislator said on Monday.

House Ways and Means Chair Jose Maria Clemente S. Salceda made the statement a few hours before President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed into law the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for next year.

“The key to economic recovery in 2021 will be quick and effective government spending to support economic activity. The items appropriated in the budget will have to be completed as fast as possible,” Mr. Salceda told BusinessWorld in a Viber message.

Mr. Salceda assured that the lower chamber will perform its role in providing budgetary oversight to ensure that the National Government’s budget utilization rate will be improved by next year to cushion the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the country’s economy.

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson recently questioned the increase in the proposed budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for 2021 due to its alleged low utilization rate and rehashed local infrastructure projects.

From the original proposal of P666.5 billion, the bicameral version allotted P694.8 billion to the DPWH.

House legislators earlier raised concerns about the Department of Health’s (DoH) poor implementation of programs under Republic Act No. 11223 or the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act. The DoH earmarked P38.9 billion for the program’s implementation in 2021.

State auditors in 2019 flagged that the agency was only able to spend 61% of its budget in 2018 and wasted some P367 million worth of medicines which were found to be near expiry. — Gillian M. Cortez and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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