House realigns P65B in 2022 budget


THE HOUSE of Representatives has realigned P65.5 billion of the proposed 2022 national budget to fund the procurement of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine booster shots, assistance for displaced workers and the downpayment for C-130 aircraft for the military.

Eric G. Yap, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, on Thursday said the amendments to House Bill (HB) No. 10153 or the General Appropriations Act of 2022 have been approved by the small committee composed of majority and minority leaders.

The committee was tasked to consolidate the proposed changes to HB 10153, after it was approved by the House on third and final reading on Sept. 30.

Mr. Yap in a statement said the House expects to transmit the final copy of the proposed P5.024-trillion spending plan to the Senate by Oct. 27. Congress resumes session on Nov. 8.

“We have appropriated additional budget to (concerned) agencies to further enable them to swiftly, efficiently, and effectively address the needs of the Filipino people,” Mr. Yap said in a statement, which did not say where the fund realignments were sourced.

According to Mr. Yap, the Health department will receive an additional P29.5 billion, including P20 billion for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots, P5 billion for medical assistance to indigent patients, and P4.5 billion for special risk allowance for private and public health workers.

Under the 2022 National Expenditure Program (NEP) submitted by the Budget department, the Health department was initially only given a P16.99-billion budget, while the P45.4 billion for booster shots was placed under the unprogrammed fund.

Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III last month said the department proposed P50.4 billion for the allowances of health workers, but this was slashed by the Executive department.

The House also realigned P10 billion for the Labor department’s Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged or Displaced Workers program which seeks to provide emergency employment for up to 30 days. The program was originally given only P21.04 billion under 2022 NEP.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development will also get P11 billion in additional funds for its crisis assistance and livelihood programs.

The Department of Transportation (DoTr) will also receive an additional P6 billion for the service contracting program for displaced public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers.

DoTr Undersecretary Giovanni Z. Lopez had previously said that P10 billion originally proposed for the program was not included in the NEP.

Four state universities in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which were earlier unfunded, has been given P504 million for their operations.

The House also realigned P3 billion for the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s National Broadband Program.

Lawmakers also approved the allocation of P5.5 billion for the Defense department, which will be used as downpayment for five C-130 J planes.

“Our commitment remains the same: to provide the enabling mechanisms for a responsive and dynamic governance and to strengthen the capabilities of the government in addressing the effects of the pandemic,” Mr. Yap said. — Russell Louis C. Ku