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The government may run into problems in procuring vaccines and implementing response programs to the COVID-19 threat if the P4.5-trillion budget for 2021 is not passed before yearend, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Sunday.

Lacson said the reenactment of the 2020 budget resulting from the failure to pass the budget bill on time will not authorize funds for COVID response programs, as the 2020 budget has no provision for them.

“For example, may P2.5 billion although kulang ito para sa vaccine. Ang mako-cover nito, 3.9 million Filipinos. Plano nga namin kasi may pandemya, dapat madagdagan pa yan at ang coverage madagdagan din. Kung walang item sa 2021 budget kasi walang 2021 budget, hindi pwedeng gumastos ang gobyerno ng kaukulang halaga para sa pagbili ng vaccine. Naantala yan,” he said in an interview on DZBB and GMA News TV.

“So buhay ang ating pinaguusapan dito. At iba pa ang ibang programa sa COVID-19, lahat yan masasakripisyo kasi walang budget sa 2020 dahil pinasa ito noong 2019, hindi pa natin alam magkakaroon ng COVID-19. So yan isang malaking problema,” he added.

The House of Representatives is to tackle the budget this week in a special session. Lacson said there is enough time in the special session for the House to approve the budget bill on third and final reading, then transmit it to the Senate.

Lacson noted even President Rodrigo Duterte is rushing the passage of the 2021 budget. “Yan ang pinaka-importansya na maipasa bago mag-yearend,” he said.

Lacson noted there are many items in the 2021 budget for COVID response, and for implementing the Universal Health Care law.

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