By Azer Parrocha, December 30, 2021; Philippine News Agency

Manila – President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Thursday signed into law the PHP5.024 trillion national budget for 2022, which will be used for the country’s coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic response and recovery efforts in the aftermath of Typhoon Odette.

He signed the 2022 national budget in a ceremony at the Rizal Hall in Malacañan Palace, which was witnessed by select members of the House of Representatives and Senate.

Next year’s PHP5.024 trillion budget is significantly higher by 11.5 percent than this year’s PHP4.5 trillion national budget.

According to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), PHP6 billion out of the PHP10 billion funds pledged by Duterte for the recovery of typhoon-hit areas in Visayas and Mindanao would be sourced from the 2022 national budget.

In his speech, Duterte said the passage of the 2022 national budget reaffirms the government’s strong commitment to providing “a more comfortable and productive life for each Filipino.”

“This will also cement this administration’s legacy of real change for future generations guided by the three main pillars of building resiliency amidst the pandemic, sustaining the momentum towards recovery, and continuing the legacy of infrastructure development,” he said.

Since the signing of next year’s budget coincides with Rizal Day, Duterte enjoined Filipinos to emulate his heroism and courage by “serving the country with dedication, integrity, accountability, and by doing what is right and just” for the people.

“There is no better way to serve the Filipino people than by giving them an honest, efficient, and responsive government that they deserve,” he added.

He also expressed appreciation to members of Congress for ensuring the timely ratification of the budget bill as well as efforts of government agencies, partners from civil society, and other civil servants who took part in crafting the legislation.

“Indeed, the passage of the General Appropriations Act of 2022 reflects the healthy collaboration among all branches of government which is crucial to the attainment of our National Development Goals, especially during these trying times,” he said.

In the same program, Duterte also signed RA 11641 known as “An Act Creating the Department of Migrant Workers.”

It was also announced that Duterte previously signed RA 11640 entitled, “An Act Extending the Availability of the 2021 Appropriations to December 31, 2022, Amending for the Purpose Section 62 of the General Provisions of Republic Act No. 11518, the General Appropriations Act of Fiscal Year 2021”.

Omicron worries

Meanwhile, Duterte expressed concern over the “looming” threat of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 as it is believed to be more transmissible than other strains.

“It’s just a little bit worrisome but takot ako nitong Omicron because pumuputok na sa lahat ng bayan sa buong mundo (I am afraid of this Omicron because it is spreading in all nations and parts of the world),” he said.

He feared that next year’s budget would again be depleted should Covid-19 cases reach alarming levels.

“I’m leaving the office in a few months, natatakot lang ako yung (I am just afraid about our) response na naman natin and how it would intrude into the budget,” he added.

Duterte also enjoined Congress to pass laws that would help the country better cope with the prevailing health crisis.

“I hope Congress, the lower and upper house, would…eventually Congress would be the one who would…you have to pass the laws needed to cope up with this new problem looming on the horizon,” he said.