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Robredo: 2022 nat’l budget doesn’t look like it was made for COVID response

/ 09:39 PM September 03, 2021
Robredo: 2022 nat'l budget doesn’t look like it was made for COVID response

A year and a half into the pandemic, Vice President Leni Robredo says, it seems that the government hasn’t learned its lesson from past surges as it has been very dependent on lockdowns – perhaps given that officials still don’t grasp the severity of the situation. (Photo courtesy of Ilocos Norte provincial government)

MANILA, Philippines—The proposed 2022 national budget does not appear like it was meant for the country’s COVID-19 response, Vice President Leni Robredo said on Friday.

During her interview with Rappler Talk on Friday, Robredo referred to some of the things that the current administration failed to do in regards to managing the health crisis when she commented on the proposed 2022 budget which is still being debated in Congress.

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A year and a half into the pandemic, she says, it seems that the government hasn’t learned its lesson from past surges as it has been very dependent on lockdowns – perhaps given that officials still don’t grasp the severity of the situation.

“Lockdown tayo nang lockdown, dapat ‘pag nagla-lockdown, hindi siya ‘yong end, ‘yong lockdown is only a means […] (para) ma-expand mo ‘yong hospital capacity, ma-strengthen mo ‘yong healthcare system.  Pero one an half years na tayo eh.  Parang roller-coaster lang, bumabalik-balik lang tayo,” Robredo said.

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(We place lockdowns after lockdowns, but if we put lockdowns, it should not be the end because it is only a means to expand hospital capacity, strengthen the healthcare system.  But we are already one and a half years into the pandemic.  It seems like a roller coaster ride, we return to where we were before.)

“Every new surge is worse than the last.  Kanina pinapakinggan ko, sinasabi nila na it will still get worse.  So ‘yong sa akin lang, pinapaanood din natin ‘yong mga budget deliberations, lumalabas pa na parang hindi COVID budget ‘yong budget for 2022?  So anong gustong sabihin nito, mis-appreciated pa rin kung gaano kalala ang sitwasyon natin ngayon?” she asked.

(Every new surge is worse than the last.  A while ago I was listening, they were saying that it will still get worse.  So for me, I am also watching the budget deliberations, it appears that our proposed 2022 budget is not a COVID-19 budget?  So what does this intend to say, that we still cannot grasp how bad our situation is?)

Several of their suggestions about the economy have also not been implemented, according to Robredo.

Her example is the lack of a clear roadmap for digital transformation laid out in the proposed budget for 2022 – and the meager allocations would hinder the adaptation of businesses and other sectors, including education.

“Kasi nakikita natin na ‘yong new normal talaga, ang shift talaga to digital economy and kapag sinabi natin invest in digital infrastructure, interconnectivity, access to reliable internet, provision of online platforms.  Nakikita natin na hindi lang negosyo, lahat ng trabaho pati government work dependent on technology,” she stressed.

(We see that in the new normal setup, the switch is towards a digital economy and when we say that we should invest in digital infrastructure, this means investing in interconnectivity, access to reliable internet, provision of online platforms.  We see that not only businesses but also government work itself has been dependent on technology.)

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“Pati education, dependent on technology.  Nakita natin ‘yong budget for 2022, not nearly enough para magkaroon tayo ng decent enough na digital infrastructure,” she added.

(Even the education sector is dependent on technology.  But we saw the 2022 budget, and the allocations are not nearly enough para for us to have a decent enough na digital infrastructure.)

In August, Robredo noted that while national government agencies and officials exerted efforts, the lackluster response to COVID-19 can be attributed to insufficient budget allocation.

Robredo explained at the time that many of the government projects’ funding could have been used to rapidly build intensive care units and hospital beds that could have handled COVID-19 outbreaks, such as the most recent one caused by the Delta variant.

She said it could also have been used to pay frontliners who have demanded better pay and the release of still withheld benefits.

READ: Gov’t exerted effort, but COVID-19 budget allocation was messed up – Robredo 

Robredo is not alone in his opinion that the proposed 2022 budget is not suited to COVID-19.  According to staunch administration critic and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, the budget looks more of an election budget designed to support administration bets, instead of the funds addressing the pandemic.

Zarate said in a statement last August 23 that of the P5.024 trillion proposed 2022 budget, P686.1 billion was allocated to the Department of Public Works and Highways while only P250.4 billion was given to the Department of Health (DOH).

Also, the budget of the government agencies directly involved in the COVID-19 fight has been scrutinized heavily in Congress, amid reports of irregularities in the pandemic funds of DOH.

A recent report by the Commission on Audit found that P67.32 billion of DOH’s COVID-19 funds contained several deficiencies that led to missed opportunities during the pandemic.

Furthermore, overpriced face shields and masks were procured from a shady company with ties to administration officials and allies.

READ: Overpricing of P1B suspected in 2020 purchase of face masks, shields 

READ: COA finds DOH lacking in managing P67.32-B COVID funds 

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TAGS: 2022 national budget, Congress, COVID-19 pandemic, COVID-19 response, House of Representatives, Office of the Vice President, OVP, Philippine news updates, Vice President Leni Robredo
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