Philippine President Duterte signs US$93.7b national budget for 2021

MANILA: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte signed on Monday (Dec 28) a 4.5 trillion pesos (US$93.7 billion) budget for next year, the country’s largest yet, to bankroll economic recovery and fund the purchase of millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

The approval of the national budget, a tenth greater than that of 2020, seeks to return what was formerly one of Asia’s fastest expanding economies back to growth and help contain coronavirus infections.

The budget enables the country to heal, rebuild and resume the economy’s upward trajectory, Duterte said after its signing.

“This coming year, we intend to recover as one nation,” he said.

Commentary: The Philippines is still struggling to get a handle on COVID-19

The education sector and public works secured 752 billion pesos and 696 billion pesos respectively, accounting for nearly a third of the budget.

Budget for the health ministry was at 210 billion pesos while defense receives 206 billion pesos.

The budget includes 72.5 billion pesos to buy, store and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, in line with Duterte’s pledge to inoculate the entire 108 million population starting in May 2021.

With about 470,000 infections and more than 9,000 deaths, the Philippines has the second highest COVID-19 cases and casualties in Southeast Asia, next to Indonesia.

Around a thousand new cases are still reported daily, despite varying levels of restrictions in the capital since mid March.

The Philippine economy is targeted to post a 6.5 per cent to 7.5 per cent growth in 2021 and another 8 per cent to 10 per cent uptick in 2022, picking up from a 8.5 per cent to 9.5 per cent downturn this year.

For 2022, the government will propose before lawmakers a national budget of 5.024 trillion, prioritising funds for health-related responses and measures to accelerate growth.