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Zubiri would like to have more session days.

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Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said on Wednesday that the Senate plans to have more session days so that it can deal with more laws. He also urged government agencies like the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to spend their budgets properly so that they don’t end up with money left over.

Zubiri told the Kapihan sa Manila Bay that instead of working for six days, he wanted to work for nine days so that senators and Senate workers wouldn’t have to work until the wee hours of the morning.

“So, I’d like to ask Senator (Sonny) Angara, instead of working on this for six days, maybe we could work on it for nine days, which would be three weeks instead of two. That way, our work wouldn’t have to be put on hold. (Perhaps nine working days, or three weeks instead of two, so that you don’t have to stay up all night.) “But the goal is still to get it done on time and as soon as possible,” he said.

The Senate’s session will start on January 23 and end on March 23 for the Lenten break. It will start up again in the last week of April and go until June when it will be put on hold until June. This will end the first regular session.

Zubiri said that the Senate just passed a number of important bills. He pointed to the passage of the national budget for 2023, which took until 3:00 in the morning, the positive effects of registering SIM cards, and the postponement of barangay elections as examples.

He also said that the Senate’s top priorities for the first quarter are the Virology Institute, the Center for Disease Control, and the medical bills that will help the economy of the country.

The Senate President also brought up DOTr, which saved PHP20 billion even though they needed more money. This means that they did not spend their budget properly, which led to underspending.

Zubiri said that the DOH has added PHP10 billion to fix up regional hospitals instead of building new specialized hospitals in Metro Manila, which would cost more.

“Ang DOTr may sav(ings), hindi nagastos (ang) PHP20 billion, tatanungin namin bakit, anong problema. There must be a lot wrong with the DOTr if you don’t use this budget. (The DOTr has PHP20 billion in savings, so we’ll ask them what’s wrong.) The DoTr has a lot of problems, so why didn’t it use the money?” he asked.

Zubiri said that the Department of Health (DOH) has an extra PHP10 billion in its budget, which will be used to fix up all regional hospitals, including the Philippine Heart Center, Lung Center of the Philippines, Kidney Institute, and offices in regional hospitals.

To fix the problem, he said, they will use the Senate Oversight committee to keep an eye on the 2023 budget flow, and they will use this as a starting point for possible changes to the next year’s budget.

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