DBM: P2.76B released to DOH for vaccine purchase
MANILA, Philippines — Releases of budget funds for Covid-19 response further inched up to P505.17 billion after the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released before 2020 ended P2.76 billion to the Department of Health (DOH) so it can buy vaccines.
The latest DBM data as of Jan. 14 showed the issuance of a special allotment release order (Saro) on Dec. 28, 2020, worth P1.49 billion covering advance payment for vaccine procurement under the $100-million Covid-19 emergency response project loan extended by the World Bank in April last year.
As the Inquirer earlier reported, the Philippine government and the World Bank had agreed to restructure the loan—initially intended to buy additional medical equipment and strengthen the health care system—in order to also cover vaccine purchase and deployment while the Philippines awaited another $300-million facility which the Washington-based lender’s board was expected to approve within the first quarter of 2021.
According to a report last month, loan disbursement stood at only 8 percent as of December last year even as the World Bank expects spending to reach 35 percent by March this year.
On top of the release for vaccine procurement, the DBM also released to the DOH last Dec. 21 P388.15 million to cover the first-year funding requirements of the said World Bank project loan.
The DBM also on Dec. 28 issued another Saro amounting to P1.27 billion to the DOH as advance payment to procure vaccines through another loan—the Manila-based Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) $125-million health system enhancement to address and limit (Heal) COVID-19 project approved in August last year.
These three Saros were sourced from the unprogrammed appropriations of the 2020 national budget, which covered foreign-assisted projects.
Another Saro worth P129.87 million was likewise released on Dec. 28, 2020 to the Department of National Defense-Office of Civil Defense (DND-OCD) as additional funding for its 2020 quick response fund (QRF), which had been sourced from last year’s national disaster risk reduction management fund (NDRRMF) or so-called calamity fund.
Since the onset of the pandemic in March last year, the DBM released a total of P505.17 billion to departments and agencies for their respective Covid-19-related response programs, activities, and projects.
The DBM released P386.14 billion under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act or Bayanihan 1 Law from March to June 2020; P6.59 billion in regular agency budgets and the special purpose fund from June to September last year; P109.16 billion under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act from September to December; and the P3.28 billion released after the Bayanihan 2 Law expired last Dec. 19.
Last Tuesday, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III told business leaders that the Philippines will borrow $1.3 billion or P62.5 billion from three multilateral lenders to buy Covid-19 vaccines and roll-out mass inoculation.
These loans will be sourced from the ADB, the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and the World Bank, Dominguez told members of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP).
To recall, the ADB had committed to lending the Philippines $325 million under its regional financing called Asia-Pacific Vaccine Access Facility (APVAX).
Dominguez said the national government had set aside a total of P82.5 billion to deploy vaccines, including P72.5 billion in the 2021 national budget—P2.5 billion in the DOH’s budget, plus P70 billion in unprogrammed appropriations to be financed by loans or new revenues, on top of P10 billion in the continuing appropriations of the 2020 budget under Bayanihan 2, both of whose validity were extended until June this year.
Dominguez said P75 billion in funds were ready to be spent for vaccine procurement and distribution.
The Finance chief said the plan was to vaccinate 70 million Filipinos aged 18 and above out of the total population of about 110 million, as minors were supposedly “not recommended to get the vaccine.”
Dominguez estimated vaccination per person to cost P1,300—about P1,150 for the vaccine itself, and the remaining amount to cover equipment, an information campaign, monitoring of vaccinated persons, as well as waste management.
Since the available money so far could cover about 57 million Filipinos, Dominguez said the remaining 13 million may have to be vaccinated with the help of local government units (LGUs) and the private sector, alongside so-called “refusants” who do not want to be inoculated.
In a statement Thursday, the Department of Finance (DOF) quoted Undersecretary Mark Dennis Y.C. Joven as telling a Senate committee of the whole hearing last Monday that a total of $800 million or P39 billion in loans were being negotiated with the ADB and the World Bank so the DOH can implement the Covid-19 vaccination program.
“The financing support from the ADB and the World Bank carries low-interest rates, with an average maturity period of at least 10 years,” Joven said.
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