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House panel OKs P1.6-B budget for response vs COVID-19 

/ 10:53 AM March 10, 2020
coronavirus covid

Coronavirus. FILE IMAGE

MANILA, Philippines — The House committee on appropriations on Tuesday approved a P1.6-billion supplemental budget for the country’s response against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

During the committee’s hearing on bills seeking supplemental budget for COVID-19 response efforts, lawmakers noted the urgency of approving the proposals as more cases of the disease are confirmed in the country.

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House committee on health chair Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan earlier filed House Bill No. 6166, which seeks to augment the budget requirements of the Department of Health (DOH) to procure surgical masks for patients under investigation and personal protective equipment for health workers.

The funds, amounting to P2.04 billion, will also be used to repatriate Filipinos overseas, particularly those in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau.

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Meanwhile, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda filed a similar bill seeking P2.06 billion supplementary budget also for the procurement of surgical masks and protective personal equipment.

However, Deputy Treasurer Sharon Almanza said that the Bureau of Treasury does not have the sufficient funds needed.

Currently, the National Treasury only has P1.65 billion in excess income, said Almanza who added that they are coordinating with the Department of Finance to expedite remittance of dividends.

“Congress will be having a break in a few days and therefore it is important that this bill be finalized today because the remaining day left for us is tomorrow,” Quirino 1st District Rep. Junie Cua said.

“Under that circumstance it seems that the most expedient to do is make do with [this amount] and find out from the DBM [Department of Budget and Management] or maybe from DOH whether there are other sources of funds to augment the requirement of this bill,” he added.

Way short?

In the same hearing, the health department was asked how much it needs in response to the threat of COVID-19 to the country.

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DOH Undersecretary Roger Tong-an said the health department needs a total of P3.1 billion—P2.35 billion for the procurement of personal protective equipment, P933 million for the Bureau of Quarantine, and P139 million for the tests conducted by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

If this is the basis, this means that the House panel-approved supplemental budget is only a little bit more than half of the budget needed by DOH.

Tong-an, however, said there are some possible fundings where they can source the needed budget.

This includes P2-billion funds from Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) and P539 million from the health department’s savings.

The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) has likewise intended to give P420 million, Tong-an said.

Edited by JPV, GSG

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link .

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