No pork barrel in House-approved 2021 national budget: Speaker Velasco

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Monday assured the public that there are no ”pork barrel” allocations in the House-approved version of the proposed PHP4.5-trillion national budget for 2021.

Velasco said a small committee in the House would introduce “institutional amendments” to the spending measure to reallocate funds to departments and agencies that require more funding.

“Let me assure you, first, that there is no pork in the budget. And second, the small group will only do constitutional amendments mainly departments and agencies asking for more budget — that’s their job,” Velasco said in an interview on ANC’s Headstart.

He noted that the budget of the Department of Health, particularly the allocation for the purchase of vaccines for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), should be increased.

“I think there was only around PHP2.5 billion that was allotted for that [Covid-19 vaccines], which only comprises 3 percent of the population. So definitely, that’s one of the things that we add on to. Mainly because I believe that the President already announced that 20 million people should be vaccinated,” he said.

He also stressed that the chamber would push for fair and equitable distribution in the budget not only for departments and agencies, but also for legislative districts.

He said the House would be able to transmit copies of the proposed 2021 national budget to the Senate by next week, earlier than their original target of Nov. 5.

“Originally, it was planned to be transmitted on Nov. 5. However, I had a quick talk with Senate President (Vicente) Sotto, he told me that if we transmitted on Nov. 5, that would be quite hard for them to finish on time. So, we agreed on Oct. 28, best effort of the House,” he said.

On Friday, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading House Bill 7727 or the 2021 General Appropriations Bill with 267 affirmative votes, 6 negative votes, and no abstention.

The House gave its green light to the 2021 GAB after holding a special session from Oct. 13 to 16, as called upon by President Rodrigo Duterte. (PNA)

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