THE HOUSE of Representatives on Monday approved on third and final reading the bill extending the validity of the 2020 national budget until end-2021, in a bid to continue providing much-needed financial aid for sectors hammered by the coronavirus pandemic. 

With 221 affirmative votes, six negatives, and zero abstention, lawmakers passed House Bill No. 6656, which aims to extend the availability of this year’s budget until Dec. 31, 2021 by amending Republic Act No. 11465 or the General Appropriations Act of Fiscal Year 2020.

The measure aims to continue the financing of infrastructure projects under the current fiscal year that have been subjected for procurement to spur the recovery of the Philippine economy next year.

A counterpart measure has also been filed at the Senate.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte certified the approval of the bill as urgent, along with a measure extending the validity of Republic Act. No. 11494 or Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan II) which expires on Dec. 19.

The government’s economic managers earlier said they are looking at proposals to extend the validity of the 2020 spending bill and Bayanihan II to serve as an added stimulus for the economy.

While the Bayanihan II and the 2021 General Appropriations Bill have increased the government’s capacity to respond to the demands of the ongoing crisis, they are “not sufficient for the genuine economic recovery of the country,” House Stimulus Committee Chair Stella Luz A. Quimbo earlier told BusinessWorld in a phone interview.

The Development Budget Coordination Committee in its Dec. 3 meeting lowered its gross domestic product (GDP) estimate to an 8.5 to 9.5 contraction this year, “following the prolonged imposition of community quarantines in various regions in the country.” This is lower than the 4.5-6.6% slump estimated in its July 28 meeting.

The economy remained in a recession after GDP shrank by 11.5% year on year in the third quarter. — KATA