QUEZON CITY – The national government will have its highest budget in history of P5.5 trillion as proposed by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

The House of Representatives which is mandated by law to tackle the proposed budget known as the General Appropriations Act before it is transmitted to the Senate immediately started deliberations on the measure, according to Speaker Lord Alan Velasco.

When the money measure is approved by both chambers of Congress, President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to sign it into law and he will go down in history to have the highest budget even as he vows out in office on June 30, 2022.

The DBM officially  submitted the budget proposal to the House on August 23.

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, and other leaders of the House of Representatives received the budget proposal called the National Expenditure Program, the last budget proposal under the administration of President  Duterte, from DBM Undersecretaries Rolando Toledo, Kim Robert De Leon, and Janet Abuel as Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado had to resign due to failing health and his resignation was accepted by the President.

Velasco said the submission of the budget proposal officially signals the start of the budget season in Congress or the legislative process of evaluation, debate, and amendment, which he hopes could lead to the “timely and decisive passage” of the 2022 General Appropriations Act.

“Today, we gladly received from President Rodrigo Duterte — through the Department of Budget and Management — the National Expenditure Program that would assist the legislature in the review and deliberation of the proposed national budget for fiscal year 2022,” Velasco said.

Velasco said the House is all set to carry its constitutional duty of carefully scrutinizing the P5.024-trillion national budget, which includes an allocation of at least P240.75 billion for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) response.

“As the coronavirus pandemic drags on and with no end in sight, it is incumbent upon Congress to swiftly pass a national budget that will not only serve as an instrument for development, but also as a powerful tool to decisively defeat Covid-19 and rebuild people’s lives and livelihoods,” he said.

Speaker Velasco called for swift and smooth passage of the proposed P5.024-trillion national budget for 2022 to avoid a reenacted spending program and ensure continuous government operations amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We, in the House of Representatives, need to get our act together to ensure swift and smooth passage of the 2022 national budget in order for the government to continue operating and provide much-needed services to the Filipino people as it is expected to,” Velasco said.

The House chief issued the statement as the Committee on Appropriations, chaired by ACT-CIS Partylist Rep. Eric Yap, kicked off its deliberations on the last full-year budget to be enacted under the administration of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

“Our aim is to pass the House version of the 2022 national budget by September 30 before we go on a break in time for the October filing of certificates of candidacy for all elective positions for the May 2022 elections,” Velasco said.

Velasco said the overall objective is for President Duterte to sign the 2022 General Appropriations Act by December to prevent a reenacted budget that could slow economic growth and hamper the delivery of government services.

The budget deliberations began three days after President Duterte — through the Department of Budget and Management — submitted to Congress the National Expenditure Program (NEP), which would assist the legislature in the review and deliberation of the government’s spending plan for next year.

The proposed 2022 national budget is focused on getting the Philippines back on the road towards full recovery from the devastating impacts of the pandemic.

The P5.024 trillion is equivalent to 22.8 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and is higher by 11.5 percent than the current 2021 national budget.

The budget proposal is guided by a strategy supported by three main pillars, namely: Building Resilience amidst the Pandemic; Sustaining the Momentum towards Recovery; and Continuing the Legacy of Infrastructure Development.

The proposed budget for next year is 11.5 percent higher than this year’s budget of P4.506 trillion.

The top 10 departments with the biggest allocations are the Department of Education with P773.6 billion budget; Department of Public Works and Highways, P686.1 billion; Department of the Interior and Local Government, PHP250.4 billion; Department of Health, P242 billion; Department of National Defense, P222 billion; Department of Social Welfare and Development, P191.4 billion; Department of Transportation, P151.3 billion; Department of Agriculture, P103.5 billion; The Judiciary, P45 billion; and Department of Labor and Employment, P44.9 billion.

About 38.3 percent or P1.922 trillion of the budget will go to social services; 29.3 percent or P1.474 trillion to economic services; 17.2 percent or P862.7 billion to general public services; 10.8 percent or P541.3 billion to debt burden (including net lending); and 4.5 percent or P224.4 billion to defense.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the 2022 NEP was carefully crafted to provide the necessary funding requirements to support the country’s resilience against the Covid-19 pandemic, to sustain the trajectory of economic growth, and to continue the legacy of infrastructure development.

Under the 2022 NEP, P45.4 billion was proposed for the purchase Covid-19 booster shots of 93.798 million fully vaccinated Filipinos.

The NEP will allocate P983 million for the establishment of the Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines.

A total of P140 million will be allocated for the biosurveillance and immune-biosurveillance of Covid-19 variants under the Philippine Genomic Information and Resource Hub.