No clear breakdown yet of budget to combat COVID-19
MANILA, Philippines — There seems to be no clear and detailed breakdown yet of the budget to be utilized for the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
During the special session on measures for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response, Iloilo 1st District Rep. Janette Garin asked Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur 2nd District Rep. Luis Raymond Villafuerte how much is needed for health measures, subsidy of patients, and support towards local government units (LGUs) for quarantine support.
Villafuerte said there are P275 billion available funds—of which P200 billion would be for emergency subsidy program and the remaining P75 billion would be for other health-related measures.
However, Villafuerte could not provide a more detailed breakdown of the said budgetary requirement.
“With regards to a total breakdown, that is part of the reporting to Congress. I am sure as we speak it is being totaled and I am sure they will provide Congress with that and we will provide Congresswoman Garin with such details,” Villafuerte said.
This, despite the move to approve House Bill No. 6616 which seeks to declare a national emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic and to authorize President Rodrigo Duterte “for a limited period and subject to restrictions, to exercise powers necessary and proper to carry out the declared national policy.”
Section 4 of House Bill No. 6616 allows the president to “direct the cancellation of appropriated programs, projects or activities (P/A/P) of any agency of the Executive Department, including government-owned or -controlled corporations (GOCC), in the FYs 2019 and 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA).”
The “savings” from these canceled programs will be used to “augment the allocation for any item for support operations, response measures, and other such P/A/P in the FY 2020 GAA as the President may deem necessary, beneficial or desirable in order to address the COVID-19 emergency, consistent with the herein declared national policy.”
However, Villafuerte said that the P275 billion available funds are also not stated in the bill when asked by Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago.
“Importante nga (What is important) is we give the government, the executive the authority to tap off-budget, GAA budget, to programs. Kasi (Because) if we put an exact amount, for example [P275 billion] and the government needs to tap [P276 billion], time is of the essence,” Villafuerte said.
“Dapat may flexibility, dapat may need (there should be flexibility, there should be a need),” the Deputy Speaker added.
As of posting, there are already 462 people infected with COVID-19 in the Philippines. Of this, 33 has died while 18 managed to recover from the highly-infectious respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2, which originally started in China’s Wuhan City in Hubei province in late 2019.
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