By Krissy Aguilar, December 28, 2020; Philippine Daily Inquirer

Manila, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday signed into law the P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021.

The President signed the spending measure for next year in a ceremony in Malacañang attended by select members of the Senate and the House of Representatives as seen in a pre-recorded video aired over PTV.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I stand before you today happy and proud to sign the 2021 General Appropriations Act,” Duterte said in the pre-taped speech.

“This important piece of legislation attests to the importance of active and fruitful collaboration between the executive and the legislative branches of the government, especially this time when the health and welfare of the people are at stake.

Among the salient provisions of the budget is the P72.5 billion allocated for the government’s vaccination program against COVID-19.

Of this figure, P2.5 billion is lodged under the Department of Health (DOH) while the rest is under unprogrammed appropriations.

“Let me stress that one of the most important items in the 2021 budget is the allocation of P72.5 billion for the purchase of storage, transportation, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines,” Duterte noted.

“Every centavo of this budget must be spent to ensure the nation’s recovery, resilience, and sustainability. Let me, therefore, serve an assurance to the Filipino people—this coming year, we intend to recover as one nation,” Duterte added.

The education sector, which covers the Department of Education, state universities and colleges, the Commission on Higher Education, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, accounts for the largest bulk of the budget at P708 billion.

The Department of Public Works and Highways received the second-highest allocation at P694 billion.

The health sector came third with a P287 billion allocation. This funding covers the Department of Health, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, specialty hospitals, the Philippine Institute Of Traditional And Alternative Health Care, and the Health Facilities Enhancement Program, and the COVID-19 vaccine.