Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Wednesday that senators plan to submit the 2021 national budget to the President for signing by mid-December, two weeks before the current spending plan expires.
In an interview with ABS-CBN, Sotto said the Senate would begin plenary debates on Nov. 10, have it approved by Nov. 24 and have a bicameral conference committee report approved by Dec. 8.
He said this timetable could be met if there are no deadlocks between senators and members of the House in the bicameral conference.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the Senate e would have enough time to scrutinize the 2021 spending plan and submit it to the President for signing before Christmas.
He added that he supported the initiative of the House of Representatives to increase the budget for the procurement for a COVID-19 vaccine from P2.5 billion to P8 billion.
Senator Christopher Go said he was looking forward to scrutinizing the national budget, particularly all health-related appropriations.
In the middle of a pandemic, he underscored the need for a sufficient and appropriate budget that would help the government fight COVID-19.
The chairman of the Senate finance committee, Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, said there would be enough time to go over the amendments made to the National Expenditure Program as they start drafting the committee report on the 2021 budget.
“We endeavor to come up with the committee report on or before Nov. 10 and start the plenary debates on the measure,” Angara said.
He said he was confident they would be able to pass the 2021 national budget in December and leave the President with enough time to go over the bill and sign it before the year ends.
“This shows that all the members of Congress are cognizant of the need to approve the budget on time, now more than ever because of the challenges our country is facing due to the pandemic.”
Senator Panfilo Lacson said regardless of the constitutional issues involving the House version of the 2021 budget bill, it is still good that the Senate has enough time to approve its own version, leaving room for the bicameral conference and submission to the President for approval, thus avoiding a re-enacted budget.