Palace clarifies: Gov’t has money; Duterte’s claim of ‘depleted fund’ only to stress huge COVID spendings
MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang has clarified that the government still has money to spend for the COVID-19 response and Typhoon Odette, saying that President Rodrigo Duterte’s repeated use of the term “depleted funds” was only meant to show the huge expenditures undertaken by the country.
During the press briefing on Wednesday, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said proof of that is the P10 billion fund promised by Duterte to victims of the typhoon, which ravaged through southern parts of Visayas, northern parts of Mindanao, and Palawan.
“Yes we have money, and the President already directed, number one ‘yong sa P10 billion nga na kinakailangan (number one is the P10 billion that we need), of course it would not stop there,” Nograles said.
“When the President made those statements, it was, remember, in the context of informing the Filipino nation, na ang ating mga kababayan, na marami talaga tayong challenges in terms of meron tayong COVID na malaki na talaga ang gastos for COVID,” he explained.
(When the President made those statements, it was, remember, in the context of informing the Filipino nation, our fellow Filipinos that we really faced a lot of challenges in terms of responding to COVID-19, and we have spent a lot for the pandemic response.)
Nograles claimed that if people would listen to Duterte’s speech, the President was referring to funding woes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is punctuated by another problem in Typhoon Odette.
“If you listen to the speeches of the President that’s what he says, we spent so much for efforts against COVID, we spent so much for vaccines, and ito meron na namang challenge, itong Typhoon Odette. But we in the government, in his administration will look for all ways and means to address all of the challenges, all of the concerns, lahat ng mga pangangailangan ng ating mga kababayan,” he said.
(If you listen to the speeches of the President that’s what he says, we spent so much for efforts against COVID, we spent so much for vaccines, and this time, we have another challenge in Typhoon Odette. But we in the government, in his administration will look for all ways and means to address all of the challenges, all of the concerns, all of the needs of our fellow Filipinos.)
“In that context, para maunawaan lamang ng ating mga kababayan na this is not an easy task, but we all have to help each other, hindi lamang ho ‘yong government, kung hindi lahat ng ating mga kababayan,” he added.
(In that context, so that people would understand that this is not an easy task, but that we all have to help each other — not only the government, but also other Filipinos as well have to help.)
After news of wide destruction in the regions reached the government, Duterte held a briefing last Friday, wherein he said that they are looking for ways to fund the calamity response, as the government’s coffers have already been depleted due to the pandemic.
On Tuesday, Nograles said that Duterte was mounting a P10 billion fund for the disaster response. But in his late night briefing, the President talked about his fears regarding the COVID-19 Omicron variant — said to be more infectious than the already dreaded Delta variant — as another surge would require more expenditures.
Right now, he said, the government’s funds were depleted.
But Duterte’s repeated use of the phrase “depleted funds” has earned the ire of administration critics like senatorial candidate and former Bayan Muna lawmaker Neri Colmenares, who said that fund shortage is impossible when Duterte borrowed a lot of funds from international lending facilities.
Then on Tuesday, Senator Richard Gordon urged the President to look at the anomaly involving the Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., which is accused of siphoning government funds for overpriced pandemic supplies, as a possible source of funding.
Earlier, Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Acting Secretary Tina Rose Canda said that P6 billion of the P10 billion Odette response funds promised by Duterte would be sourced from the proposed 2022 national budget — which the President is set to sign after Christmas.
Canda said that P2 billion of the P10 billion promised funds are already available under the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Funds (NDRRMF) or calamity fund, while another P2 billion would come from Duterte’s contingency fund.
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