THE Senate Committee on Finance has committed to pass on time the P4.5-trillion national budget, which is expected to sustain the government’s efforts to help the economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We don’t want a repeat of 2019 when the government had to operate on a reenacted 2018 national budget for five months, which led to serious delays in the implementation of key programs and projects and slower GDP growth,” Committee Chairman Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara said in a statement Monday.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed the 2019 budget on April 15, but vetoed some P95.3-billion appropriations deemed unconstitutional, reducing its size to P3.662 trillion.

The Development Budget Coordination Committee has approved a P4.506-trillion budget for 2021, which is 9.9% higher than the P4.1-trillion spending plan in 2020.

The budget department has yet to transmit the National Expenditure Program (NEP) to Congress, but is working to submit it before the Aug. 26 deadline.

“There’s no target date yet on when we will submit the budget to Congress,” Budget Assistant Secretary Rolando U. Toledo said in a phone message Monday.

“We are making sure to submit it days or week before the 30-day Constitutional deadline once we have finalized the FY (Fiscal Year) 2021 NEP and other related budget documents.”

Mr. Angara said a delay in the budget signing would cripple government agencies’ ability to respond to the pandemic.

“This is especially important now that we are still grappling with a pandemic and we need to implement key programs to address its impacts,” Mr. Angara said.

The 2021 budget hopes to implement a “reset” for the economy, allowing it to rebound from the crisis in a sustainable manner. Mr. Angara said he expects to see programs that will jumpstart the economy and strengthen the healthcare system.

He said he wants to see programs intended to boost hard-hit parts of the economy such as micro, small, and medium enterprises and tourism industry. He will also push for the improvement of digital infrastructure. — Charmaine A. Tadalan