By Leonel Abasola

(File photo) 

MANILA – Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri on Wednesday said the Senate is planning to increase the number of session days in order to tackle more laws as he also urged government agencies such as the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to spend their budget properly to avoid underspending.

Speaking before the Kapihan sa Manila Bay, Zubiri said that instead of tackling six working days he wanted to make it to nine working days to prevent senators and the Senate employees to finish in the wee hours of the morning.

“So, request ko kay Senator (Sonny) Angara, maybe instead of tackling this six working days, baka pwedeng, maybe, nine working days — three weeks, instead of two — that way, hindi naman puyatan ang ating mga kasamahan. (Maybe nine working days — three weeks instead of two, to avoid staying late all night). But definitely, the idea is still to pass it on time and as early as possible,“ he said.

The Senate will open its session on Jan. 23, and will adjourn on March 23 for the Lenten break. It will resume in the last week of April until June before its sine die adjournment ending the first regular session.

Zubiri cited the passage of the 2023 national budget which lasted until 3:00 in the morning, as well as on the positive effect of the SIM card registration, and the postponement of barangay election as several landmark bills the Senate has just passed.

He also announced that the Senate’s priority measure this first quarter includes the creation of the Virology Institute; the Center for Disease Control and the medical bills that will help increase the country’s economic standing.

The Senate President also cited DOTr, which incurred a PHP20-billion savings despite the fact that they need more funds, meaning they did not spent their budget properly resulting to underspending.

As for the DOH, Zubiri said they have added PHP10 billion to retrofit regional hospitals instead of the more expensive construction of new specialized hospitals in Metro Manila.

Ang DOTr may sav(ings), hindi nagastos (ang) PHP20 billion, tatanungin namin bakit, anong problema. Kadami-daming problema ng DOTr ba’t hindi niyo nagamit itong budget na ito (The DoTr has PHP20 billion savings, we will asked them what was the problem. The DoTr has many problems, so why it did not use the budget),” he said.

Zubiri said there is PHP10 billion more to the budget of the DOH which is intended to retrofit all regional hospitals, to include the Philippine Heart Center, Lung Center of the Philippines, Kidney Institute, and offices in regional hospitals.

To address the situation, he said they will use the Senate Oversight committee to monitor the 2023 budget flow, and will make this as basis in the next year’s budget for possible realignment. (PNA)