THE Senate Committee on Finance said the 2021 spending plan will likely be a “stimulus budget” of about P5 trillion to revive the economy after the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) emergency.

Palagay ko (I think) it will be a stimulus budget, so you’re talking of maybe close to P5 trillion,” Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara, who chairs the committee, said in a virtual briefing Wednesday.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) in December said it was looking at a P4.64-trillion national budget for 2021, more than 13% higher than the 2020 edition.

“One-third niyan for loan servicing (A third of the budget is for debt service),” he said.

“‘Yung non personnel items, palagay ko karamihan diyan even the infrastructure will be tied towards providing stimulus (Parts of the personnel and infrastructure budgets could be tied in some way towards providing stimulus),” he said.

Mr. Angara also said the 2021 General Appropriations Act will likely also prioritize government spending on the health sector, particularly on the Philippine Health Insurance Corp., as well as the improvement of health facilities nationwide.

Nakita natin medyo na-expose tayo sa capacity to test, to ramp up testing. Naging mabagal tayo kung ikumpara sa ibang bansa (Our inability to ramp up testing was exposed by the crisis. We were slow compared to other countries),” he said, adding that such capacity should not only be performed by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

“I think we need that capacity in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.”

Mr. Angara backs a stimulus package for the next six months to one year, which will support hard-hit industries such as the tourism sector.

The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which granted a P5,000-8,000 monthly subsidy to low-income households for two months, expires after three months.

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said in a separate briefing that the chamber will convene the Committee of the Whole on Monday to be briefed by economic managers and members of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease.

He also plans to meet separately with the Departments of Health, Agriculture and Transportation on Tuesday. — Charmaine A. Tadalan