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The House of Representatives on Friday approved on final reading the proposed P4.056-trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2021.

The approval by the august chamber came during the last day of the special session which was called by President Rodrigo Duterte last week, thus reaffirming its commitment to pass the highest quality budget that would help Filipinos and the economy rebound, reset and recover from the adverse impact of COVID-19.

A total of 257 legislators voted in favor of House Bill No. 7727 or the 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB). Only six voted against the measure and no one abstained.

In his closing remarks, House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco thanked his colleagues for responding to the call of the President to hold a special session to ensure the timely passage of the government’s spending plan for next year, amid the recent leadership scuffle with former Speaker Alan Peter Caytano.

“It is an extraordinary budget for extraordinary times. There is so much at stake here: our health, the economy, jobs and livelihood, food security, the education of our children, and much more,” said Velasco.

Velasco expressed his gratitude to the President for “taking a principled, decisive leadership” in calling for the special session, which allowed House members to further scrutinize the agency budgets and to thresh out issues relevant to each department and concerned sector.

“We have provided every representative the opportunity to raise issues, clarify any misconceptions, and recommend how we can make the budget truly responsive to our current and pressing needs and conditions,” he said.

The new Speaker said he was proud of the House-approved GAA for being “truly reflective and responsive to the needs of our people.”

“We have proven that playing by the rules, without resorting to shortcuts, and keeping our time-honored traditions and values, we can produce better and superior outputs,” said Velasco.

The agencies which received the biggest allocations were: Department of Education, P754.4 billion; Department of Public Works and Highways, P667.3 billion; Department of the Interior and Local Government, P246.1 billion; Department of National Defense, P209.1 billion; Department of Health (DOH), P203.1 billion; Department of Social Welfare and Development, P171.2 billion; Department of Transportation, P143.6 billion; Department of Agriculture, P66.4 billion; the Judiciary, P43.5 billion; and Department of Labor and Employment, P27.5 billion.

The DOH budget includes an initial P2.5 billion for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines next year.

Meanwhile, Velasco also assured his fellow lawmakers and the President that “we will not have a reenacted budget by January of next year.”

“We will transmit without delay the approved bill to the Senate and give our counterparts sufficient time to likewise examine the national budget,” said Velasco. (CMC)

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