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Senate approves extension of 2021 budget validity on 3rd reading

THE SENATE passed on third and final reading on Monday a bill extending the validity of the 2021 budget until the end of next year.

House Bill 10373, which amends Section 62 of the General Provisions of Republic Act 11518 or the General Appropriations Act of Fiscal Year 2021 was unanimously adopted by the Senate with 22 votes in support.

Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara, who chairs the Senate Finance committee, said the extension is crucial for the government’s recovery efforts since the pandemic is expected to persist throughout next year with the looming threat of the Omicron variant.

“The approval of the measure will allow the government to provide more social services and implement more projects for the benefit of more of our countrymen, and to a certain extent, provide some stimulus for jumpstarting our economic recovery,” Mr. Angara said in a statement on Monday.

Under the bill, appropriations authorized in the 2021 spending plan, including budgetary support to government-owned and -controlled corporations and financial assistance to local government units (LGUs), will be available for release and obligation until the end of December 2022, except for funds for personnel services.

On the other hand, appropriations for the statutory shares of LGUs will be available until fully utilized and disbursed.

The construction of infrastructure projects, the delivery of goods and services, inspection, and payment must also be settled before the end of December next year.

Once approved, 2.5 million more indigent patients are expected to benefit from government assistance, Mr. Angara said, as a significant portion of the budget for Medical Assistance for Indigent Patients has yet to be obligated.

It may also provide leeway for the Department of Interior and Local Government to use unobligated appropriations to hire up to 8,000 more contact tracers for one month, and boost the economic recovery by increasing infrastructure spending, he added.

After the end of the validity period, all unreleased appropriations and unobligated allotments will expire and revert to the unappropriated surplus of the general fund.

Except for LGUs, all balances of fund transfers between government agencies, instrumentalities, and departments not utilized, expended, or disbursed will also revert to the general fund.

The Budget department is authorized to issue the guidelines for the effective implementation of the cash budgeting system.

The Senate will now send its amended third reading report to the House of Representatives for adoption. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan

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