Senate minority to propose realigning P19-B anti-insurgency funds for virus vaccine, calamity aid
MANILA, Philippines — The minority bloc in the Senate will move for the realignment of the P19-billion anti-insurgency 2021 budget to augment funding for the COVID-19 vaccination program, calamity response and other “urgent needs.”
“The minority will propose a realignment of the anti-insurgency funds in order that we can set the correct priorities in the budget principally to address the pandemic and the calamities brought about by Rolly and any coming storms, the housing needs and budget for ayuda [assistance],” Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon told reporters in an online interview.
The Senate is set to begin plenary debates on the proposed P4.5-trillion budget for 2021 this week.
“Let us realign them for better use and urgent needs,” he added.
Several senators have been calling for the diversion of the budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, which has been accused of red-tagging progressive groups and lawmakers, for the rehabilitation and aid for typhoon-hit communities.
“The allocation for anti-insurgency can be postponed for a year. I don’t think our programs will collapse if we postpone that P19B anti-insurgency fund to 2022,” Drilon said.
“We need every fund available for the needs of our people,” he added.
The anti-insurgency funds can be used as augmentation for the country’s vaccination program, Drilon proposed.
He noted that according to the Department of Health (DOH), the government must vaccinate 60 percent of the 105-million population of the Philippines to achieve “herd immunity.”
But the proposed P8-billion budget for the vaccine under the House-approved General Appropriations Bill (GAB) is “just grossly inadequate,” according to the minority leader.
“Based on the 105 million Filipinos, you will need to inoculate about 60 to 70 million Filipinos. At P500 per person, that will require an allocation of P30B. Admittedly, it cannot be done in one year because we are not prepared,” Drilon said.
Further, Drilon said the proposed 2021 budget “did not anticipate” the damage caused by Typhoon Rolly in several parts of the country.
“Typhoon Rolly caused a damage of P15 billion. The incoming typhoon Ulysses will be passing through the [National Capital Region] this week and we expect it to cause extensive damage,” he said.
“We must have a bigger budget to address these calamities,” he added.
Drilon also wants funding for the continued provision of social amelioration program (SAP) cash assistance for Filipinos who lost their jobs amid the pandemic.
“They need continued assistance. We need additional funding there,” he said.
The senator also said that there should be an additional budget to address the housing needs of Filipinos.
“On housing, we now need 6.4 million housing units to address this problem. If we do not provide funds where our mouth is, we will have a problem,” Drilon said.
“We need about P24 billion to partially address the housing needs in 2021. Partially we must address this so it does not become a crisis,” he added.
Earlier, Senate President Vicente Sotto III thumbed down calls to use the proposed P19.2 billion budget for the government’s anti-insurgency efforts to add more funds for the country’s calamity aid.
But Drilon expressed confidence that his colleagues would be open to the minority’s proposal to realign the said funds.
“We will present our arguments. We are confident that our colleagues are open to this. They are all after the welfare of our people,” the minority leader said.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.