Drilon scores vaccine fund as ‘unfunded check’
MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Friday likened the P72.5 billion earmarked for the purchase of coronavirus vaccines in the 2021 budget to an “unfunded check,” since the bulk of it was lodged in standby appropriations without a definite source of funding.
He said the 2021 general appropriations bill, which the Senate and the House ratified on Wednesday, created “additional uncertainty” by placing P70 billion of the COVID-19 vaccine allocation under unprogrammed funds.
Unlike regular budgetary items with definite funding, unprogrammed appropriations can only be financed depending on the availability of excess tax collections or new revenue sources or by borrowing from other countries or multilateral agencies.
The P70-billion unprogrammed fund on top of a separate P2.5-billion item was allocated in the Department of Health’s regular budget for its program on the still-largely-unavailable vaccine, bringing the total to P72.5 billion.
“It is unfortunate that in these uncertain times, the budget is creating additional uncertainty. This makes Filipinos wary about the future,” Drilon said in a statement.
Congress is poised to submit to the President the proposed P4.5-trillion General Appropriations Act, including the much-needed allocation for COVID-19 vaccines.
“[But] only P2.5 billion out of the P72.5 billion is funded,” Drilon said.
“It is like we issue a check without adequate funding. We hope it will not bounce,” the opposition senator quipped.
“Our health system unfortunately at this stage is a big question mark to me because of the very fluid plans for the acquisition, funding of the vaccine, and the logistical expense that goes with it. No definite revenue source is identified,” Drilon said during a recent Senate session.
“The comfort level is not very high that we can achieve a certain degree of confidence insofar as our public health is concerned. I guess we just have to look up at the sky and pray,” he added.
The Senate leader earlier called out the administration’s misplaced priorities for submitting a “business as usual” budget.
“Talking about misplaced priorities. There is no definite revenue source for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccine but there are P16.4 billion for anti-insurgency and P9.5 billion for confidential and intelligence funds,” Drilon said.
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