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Budget, Bayanihan II extension bills now with Palace for signing

PHILIPPINE STAR/EDD GUMBAN

MEASURES extending the validity of the 2020 budget and the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan II) until next year are now before President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s signature.

The bills have both been transmitted to the Office of the President, House appropriations committee chairman and ACT-CIS Representative Eric G. Yap said in a phone message Sunday.

Budget Secretary Wendel E. Avisado in a separate phone message said, “We are for the extension only, nothing more nothing less,” when asked whether he recommended the approval of the measures.

House Bill No. 6656 will amend Republic Act No. 11465 to extend the P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020 until Dec. 31, 2021; while House Bill No. 8063 will extend RA 11494, or Bayanihan II, until June 30, 2021.

The measures were adopted and approved by the Senate on Dec. 15, and were later adopted by the House on Dec. 16, doing away with the need to convene the bicameral conference committee.

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Bayanihan II, which provided P140 billion worth of assistance to hard-hit sectors and P25.5 billion more in standby allocations contingent on funding availability, expired on Dec. 19. Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea was asked in a phone message on the status of the bills, but had not commented at deadline time.

Without the extension, the funding under these measures will revert to the National Treasury.

The Department of Budget and Management has reported that P110 billion of the 2020 spending plan has not been released as of Nov. 13. The equivalent amount is P38 billion for Bayanihan II, as of Nov. 11.

The extension is expected to help the government catch up on spending after its projects were disrupted by the lockdown, which started mid-March. This contributed to the 10% contraction of the economy in the first nine months. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

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