House wants P20B for booster shots

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    THE House of Representatives wants budget executives to allocate an additional P20 billion for the purchase of COVID-19 booster shots for next year in the proposed P5.024 trillion national budget for 2022, the chair of the committee on appropriations said yesterday.

    Rep. Eric yap (PL, ACT-CIS) yesterday said the House has finalized the list of amendments to House Bill No. 10153, or the 2022 General Appropriations Bill (GAB), which was approved on third and final reading last September 30 and is expected to be transmitted to the Senate on October 27.

    “The FY 2022 National Budget is crucial for our full recovery from the pandemic as a nation.

    After careful consideration and consultations, we have finalized the amendments for HBN 10153. As illustrated, we have appropriated additional budget to the following agencies to further enable them to swiftly, efficiently, and effectively address the needs of the Filipino people,” Yap said in a statement.

    On top of the departments that will receive additional budgets is the Department of Health (DOH), which will handle the P20 billion for the procurement of booster shots, an additional P5 billion for medical assistance to indigent patients, and another P4.5 billion for special risk allowance (SRA) to all qualified health workers in both public and private hospitals.

    At least four percent of next year’s budget, or about P241 billion, was allocated for COVID-19 response, including the P45.4 billion to cover the COVID-19 booster shots of 93.798 million fully vaccinated Filipinos who might need to be inoculated again next year.

    The House had to add the P20 billion budget for booster shots since the P45.4 billion under the Executive’s proposal was placed under “unprogrammed funds,” which means that it will only be funded if the government will be able to meet its revenue targets next year.

    The House also added P10 billion to the budget of Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for the Tulong Pangkabuhayan as Ating Disadvantaged or Displaced Workers Program (TUPAD) with priorities to be given to the following: indigent families, informal sector families, and those under the next lower poverty level, as determined by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

    The DSWD will have an additional P10 billion for its Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) program, which includes food assistance, food packs, transportation, medical, burial assistance, assistance to students, cash/food for work and other assistance to individuals, sectors and communities in especially difficult circumstances.

    An additional P1 billion was also allocated for the DSWD’s sustainable livelihood program to enable each qualified household beneficiary to enroll in two different tracks: micro-enterprise development and employment facilitation through technical and vocational skills training.

    The Department of Transportation will have an additional P6 billion budget for its service contracting program under the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board to help public transportation drivers and operators, and provide free rides to the commuting public.

    Four state universities and colleges (SUCs) will receive an additional P504 million for their operational requirements in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM): the Adiong Memorial Polytechnic State College in Lanao del Sur, Cotabato State University, Sulu State College, and Tawi-Tawi Regional Agricultural College which was not funded under the Executive’s original proposal.