The Senate approved a total of P83 billion in its version of the general appropriations bill for the purchase, storage, and distribution of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines in 2021.

The office of the Senate Committee on Finance chaired by Sen. Sonny Angara shared the breakdown of the budget. 

The Department of Health would receive P8 billion and added to its regular budget.

P54 billion, which will be the unprogrammed appropriations, is allocated for the procurement of vaccines

P21 billion was appropriated for the vaccines’ storage, transportation and distribution. These will also be under unprogrammed funds.

However, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has previously mentioned that the funds for Covid-19 vaccines under unprogrammed appropriations can be considered “an illusion” since these can only be used if the total government revenues reach the targets.

“No economist will stake his or her reputation by asserting that we expect to exceed our revenue targets,” Drilon has said.

The executive branch has previously inked P2.5 billion for Covid-19 vaccines as part of the National Expenditure Program. The said budget was boosted to P8 billion by the House of Representatives.

The Senate also appropriated P1 billion to the Department of the Interior and Local Government for contact tracing efforts in 2021.

“Ang pambansang badyet ay badyet ng pag-bangon, ang pinaka-stratehiya natin para umahon mula sa bigat at hirap ng nakaraang taon,” Angara said.

“Considering that we’re still in the middle of a global pandemic, much of the increases the committee has made is in the health sector and with regards to our COVID-19 response,” he added.

The bicameral conference committee for the proposed 2021 national budget will start on Saturday. It is expected to be released on December 9. After the bicam, the enrolled budget bill is expected to be submitted to Malacañang on December 16 for the President’s signature. RJ Espartinez