The Senate voted 22-0 to approve the P4.1-trillion proposed national budget for 2020 on third and final reading on Wednesday.
After Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sonny Angara entered the institutional amendments in the national budget, the measure was passed on second reading.
But due to the certification of the budget bill as urgent, the P4.1-trillion proposed budget was eventually approved unanimously on third and final reading.
The budget plan was already passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate which means the measure will now undergo the Bicameral Conference Committee (BCC) where both chambers will reconcile their budget versions.
The BCC is planning to convene on Thursday or Friday with Senators Angara, Panfilo Lacson, Cynthia Villar, Pia Cayetano, Sherwin Gatchalian, Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, Richard Gordon, Imee Marcos, Joel Villanueva, Ralph Recto, Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, Franklin Drilon, Kiko Pangilinan, and Risa Hontiveros representing the Senate.
Both chambers will convene early to ensure that President Rodrigo Duterte will sign a new budget before the end of 2019.
To recall, the bicameral conference committee for the 2019 national budget was held in January 2019 after both chambers did not find a common ground while they reconcile each House’s proposed amendments aside from the P95 billion “insertions” included in the P3.8-trillion budget for this year.
The delay in the approval of the budget had an economic backlash.
The 2019 budget was only approved and signed by the President last April 2019 with P95 billion of the P3.8 trillion budget vetoed due to doubts of its legality.
For the 2020 budget, the Senate included a P6 billion increase in their institutional amendments for the Department of Education’s Last Mile Schools Program to address the gaps in resources and facilities of schools that are geographically-isolated, disadvantaged and conflict-affected.
Angara said the Senate slashed the Education Service Contracting Program under DepEd to fund the proposed increase in the Teacher Salary Subsidy aside from the increase in the National Assessment Systems for Basic Education, Basic Education Curriculum, Literacy and Numeracy Program, Student Assistance Program for those who excel in sports, Special Education Program, Voucher Program for Non-DepEd Public Schools, and School-Based Feeding Program as suggested by other senators.
The budget for state universities and colleges also got a P1.158 billion increase to fund research programs, sports- and culture-related activities, and new buildings and facilities.
The Senate also increased the budget of the Department of Health (DoH). Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go backed the increase according to his manifestation after the voting.
The increase in DoH’s budget included P644 million for the Philippine General Hospital and P3.173 billion to cover state nurses’ salary grade upgrade in compliance with the recent Supreme Court decision in the case of Ang Nars Party-list versus the Executive Secretary.
Aside from that, the Senate version of the budget will cover the additional 3,300 hospital beds for state hospitals around the country and the budget for the Philippine Health Insurance Company (PhilHealth) for the Universal Health Care Law.
Aside from PGH, state hospitals like the Philippine Heart Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Lung Center of the Philippines, and the Philippine Children’s Medical Center will benefit from the budget increase.
Budget increases were also given to the newly-created Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development and the Department of Labor and Employment including the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.
Meanwhile, the increase in the budget of the Defense Secretary is for the implementation of the Task Force Balik Loob and Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program for rebel returnees.
Aside from that, there is a P920 million increase of the Philippine Army’s budget for the activation of one infantry division to address the threat brought by the Abu Sayyaf Group in Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi areas.
Additional funds were also sought for the Philippine Air Force to develop Col. Ernesto Rabina Air Base and construct various air base facilities.
Meanwhile, a P150-million increase for drugs and medicines procurement as well as hiring of workers at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center was included by the senators.
Also getting an additional budget, P1.529 billion, is the Philippine National Police with a P32 billion increase for the Salary Standardization V under the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund.