Gov't insists on P1.4-trillion COVID-19 funding even if some cash already spent
Under Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan Act, President Duterte has the power to reallocate budget funds for COVID-19 response.
Gov't insists on P1.4-trillion COVID-19 funding even if some cash already spent
Prinz Magtulis (Philstar.com) - April 21, 2020 - 8:03pm

MANILA, Philippines — “No double counting” happened on the government’s P1.4-trillion economic strategy against the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, newly appointed Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said, even as some of so-called "reserve money" had already been used.

“Certainly, there is no double counting, but I think we can improve on the presentation,” Chua told reporters in a briefing through Zoom on Tuesday.

Chua helped craft the government’s four-pillar economic plan back at the Department of Finance (DOF), where he recently served as finance undersecretary for nearly four years.

But the plan’s unprecedented funding garnered curious eyes from budget geeks who saw the four pillars allegedly wrongly tabulating programs that will be funded together with cash to fund them. The result, it was said, was inavertently ballooning the size of the state’s response to the pandemic.

Chua defended the plan, saying that programs under the first and second pillars “have already funds,” without going into specifics. The two pillars enumerated key social projects to temper the outbreak’s effect on the public such as the P205-billion cash aid from the social welfare department and the DOF’s P50.8-billion aid to small firm employees. 

The contents of the third pillar, according to Chua, are "not funding Pillars 1 and 2,” but are “actually reserve money" for the fourth pillar which is the economic recovery plan yet to be crafted.

Funds are 'pooled'

But National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon told Philstar.com differently. In a phone interview last Thursday, De Leon said the government is in fact “pooling” funds into the general account, where cash is being secured for all of government’s funding needs.

This means that agencies may draw cash in a single account from the Treasury for all state programs, including employee salaries, whether the money will be used for the coronavirus response or not.

“Of course, you can’t really say what you will need at a particular moment so one day, you might spend for COVID-19, another instance it’s only totally different thing,” De Leon said in a phone interview.

Part of the third pillar was the central bank’s P300-billion infusion to the government through the purchase of Treasury bonds. Cash were already remitted to the Treasury few weeks back, and Finance Assistant Secretary Antonio Lambino admitted last Thursday “some” may have already been used.

Multilateral funding from the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank were also included in the third pillar, but De Leon said none of the grants and loans the government recently signed have been credited yet.

Based on the independent monitoring of Philstar.com, sources for a total of P735.73 billion in state funding during COVID-19 have been determined as of April 20, which includes cash sourced from dividends, loans, grants and bond issuances.

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