Cayetano eager to work on 2021 budget

Alan Peter S. Cayetano

SPEAKER Alan Peter Cayetano wants the House of Representatives to work with the executive branch in crafting the proposed 2021 national budget.

Cayetano seeks an assurance that the next budget will contain the government’s responses to post-COVID situation.

The Philippines has more than 5,000 positive cases of coronavirus.

Upon instructions of Speaker Cayetano, Deputy Speaker for Finance Luis Raymund Villafuerte and appropriations committee chairman Rep. Eric Yap of party-list group ACT-CIS are meeting today with Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado to discuss the budget.

Before the outbreak of COVID-19 in December last year, the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) had decided to endorse a spending program amounting to P4.6 trillion for next year.

However, during the teleconference-hearing of the House’s Defeat COVID-19 Committee on Tuesday, ways and means panel chairman Rep. Joey Salceda said there might be a need to trim down the DBCC proposal because of the expected decrease in revenues due to the pandemic.

Salceda is proposing “an increase in the budget of 5-6 percent, instead of DBCC’s 10-11 percent.”

“Minus inflation of 2.5 percent, we can still grow by up to 3 percent,” he said.

Due to enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon most business establishments closed in compliance with the lockdown.

This led to the Department of Finance’s projection of lower revenue collections this year.

For his part, Villafuerte said Congress, the DBCC and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) would have to do a “reprioritization” of the proposed 2021 budget to focus spending on responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For Congress, definitely the investments would continue to be on infrastructure and health. We will have to prioritize health because of the situation,” he said during the virtual hearing.

But Villafuerte disagreed with Salceda that Congress and the administration might have to consider a budget lower than what the DBCC had proposed.

He said the House could adopt the P4.6 trillion DBCC proposal and the expected bigger shortfall could be filled with more borrowings.

“We are in a good fiscal position. We can borrow money. We are bankable. I think we can stick to that budget based on a reprioritization,” he said.

Earlier, Cayetano said the House and the DBM were considering a smoother process for the preparation and approval of the annual national budget.

He said the plan is for the executive and legislative branches to work closely in putting together the yearly outlay.

He said enacting the appropriations bill would be smoother and faster if the executive and legislative branches work together.