The Reconciled 2021 budget which Congress has approved is currently awaiting the President’s signature. We have worked diligently to ensure that through this budget, assistance is extended in a timely manner to those who have been affected by calamity, poverty, disease, and homelessness in the past year. We have also funded laws and bills that will have far-reaching impacts on the lives of Filipinos.
Some of these measures directly address matters pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare, and people’s welfare. One is the Doktor Para Sa Bayan Act, which is awaiting the President’ signature. This measure seeks to produce more healthcare workers across the country through medical scholarships given to qualified and deserving students. It also requires that each region will have at least one state-operated medical school. To this end, the 2021 budget allocates P1.033 billion as a seed fund for the development of medical schools in 12 state universities or colleges.
Another is the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (RA 11215) which establishes a nationwide program for addressing this other deadly disease and a Cancer Assistance Fund that will be allocated P620 million. P150 million of this will be for cancer medicines for children.
Meanwhile, the Mental Health Act (RA 11036) which seeks to develop a comprehensive, integrated, effective, and efficient national mental healthcare system, has been provided P384.355 million under the Department of Health, and P50 million under the Department for Social Welfare and Development.
Then there is RA 11350, which I co-authored, establishing the National Commission on Senior Citizens as the main agency that will ensure the full implementation of laws and policies upholding the welfare of the elderly. 25 million was allocated to start its operations.
We’ve also provided funding for measures focused on education and sports. SBN 1092, the Teaching Supplies Allowance Act of 2020, will be implemented even before its enactment with a budget of P1.365 billion, under the Department of Education (DepEd). This will increase cash allowances for public teachers from P3,500 to P5,000 each in 2021.
Another is RA 11470, establishing the National Academy of Sports (NAS). Construction of the NAS main campus will begin next year with P729 million appropriated under the Bases Conversion and Development Authority, and another P264.665 million under the DepEd. .
To ensure proper support for our agencies on law and order, P244.988 million has been provided for RA 11459, the Judges-at-Large Act of 2019, which will allow judges to be assigned to regional trial courts as acting or assisting judges in bid to decongest our judicial system. Then up to P50 million has been set aside to establish a Philippine Judiciary Marshal Service to protect our magistrates, as contemplated by a measure currently pending in Congress.
We have also provided funding for other laws tied to our attempts to “build forward better.”P4.319 billion will be appropriated for the Philippine Statistics Authority, with another P2.5 billion included as unprogrammed appropriations, to implement the Philippine Identification System Act (RA 11055). These funds will be used for the ongoing registration for the national ID system—which will make distributing any social amelioration more efficient.
Furthermore, the Department of Information and Communications Technology shall receive a total P3.225 billion to implement the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act (RA 10929) This amount will be used to establish free wi-fi services in government facilities, public education centers, local community areas, and central transport points, among others.
Then the National Economic and Development Authority will receive P200 million for the implementation of the Philippine Innovation Act (RA 11293). In particular, the funding will be for the National Innovation Council, which will coordinate with various government departments to set the direction for the country’s innovation goals and priorities, through the National Innovation Agenda and Strategy Document.
Finally, in line with RA 11363, the Philippine Space Act, the Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) will receive P313.717 million to begin its operations, hire staff, and start implementing its programs.
A priority for the P4.5-trillion 2021 national budget is improving our COVID-19 response. But we thought that we should also fund our recently enacted laws, so as not to render them irrelevant. We already have laws that can help the Filipino people; it is now a matter of ensuring they are implemented, and implemented well.
Sen. Sonny Angara has been in public service for 16 years— nine years as Representative of the Lone District of Aurora, and seven as senator. He has authored and sponsored more than 200 laws. He is currently serving his second term in the Senate.(Email: firstname.lastname@example.org| Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: @sonnyangara)/WDJ