P48 billion for COVID-19 response less than 1% of 2022 budget | Inquirer News
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P48 billion for COVID-19 response less than 1% of 2022 budget

By: - Reporter / @NCorralesINQ
/ 04:48 AM September 22, 2021
For Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, it would be better to just recast or realign the 2022 national budget than have a separate supplemental budget to increase funding for the country’s health response against the coronavirus pandemic.

FILE PHOTO: Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo –Photo from the House of Representatives

MANILA, Philippines — House Deputy Minority Leader and Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo on Tuesday questioned the government’s meager allocation for COVID-19 response in its proposed P5.024-trillion national budget for 2022, noting that it was less than 1 percent of the whole package — “a drop in the bucket.”

On the first day of plenary debates on the 2022 General Appropriations Bill (GAB), Quimbo said that the P48.841-billion allocation for the government’s pandemic response, excluding the unprogrammed P45 billion for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, was not enough.

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The amount, according to her, was merely 0.96 percent of the total budget as she cited how the government had spent P536.4 billion for COVID-19 response under the two previous Bayanihan laws, which spanned one year and two months.

“We can see that the P48 billion for health response in 2022 is a really small amount, a drop in the bucket,” Quimbo said.

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“The GAB 2022 in its current form does not constitute a sufficient COVID response,” she added, noting that there were no allocations for the special risk allowances and other benefits of health-care workers. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier told lawmakers at a House budget hearing that the Department of Budget and Management had slashed his department’s COVID-19 response budget for next year.

Quimbo asked Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, the sponsor of House Bill No. 10153, or the GAB, if the government would be willing to have a special supplemental budget like the Bayanihan 3 to augment the COVID-19 response budget for 2022.

The House of Representatives passed the Bayanihan 3 bill on June 1, but the Senate has yet to act on the proposed stimulus package.“I’d rather recast the budget, I think. There are items immediately that could be shifted to augment the health response budget to COVID-19 in 2022,” Salceda told Quimbo.

“What I’m saying is it is the better approach because under the current rules … if you still have to go through a special supplemental budget, then you would have to go through an entire [process],” Salceda said.

Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin, a former health secretary, earlier said that the government must allocate funds for free COVID-19 tests and contact tracing, adding that the 2022 national budget did not augur well for the war against the new coronavirus.

In the same budget deliberations, Quimbo said she was worried about the huge unobligated amount in the 2021 national budget that could have been used for the government’s pandemic response.

According to Salceda, a total of P1.74 trillion of the P4.5 trillion budget this year remains unobligated as of June 30.

“I find this huge amount of unobligated funds very worrisome, considering that our economy is in a slump and government spending is clearly one way to revive the economy,” Quimbo said.

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TAGS: 2022 national budget, COVID-19 funds, Stella Quimbo
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