covid
This September 14, 2020, photo shows MRT-3 commuters at Cubao station.
The STAR/Michael Varcas
Virus fund releases jump to P389.2 billion in 6 months
Ian Nicolas Cigaral (Philstar.com) - September 21, 2020 - 5:24pm

MANILA, Philippines — Nearly P400 billion in public funds were released to state agencies to finance the government’s response to the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic 6 months into the health crisis.

Budget department data showed that as of September 14, a total of P389.2 billion was allotted to line agencies for their COVID-19 contingency programs since March. Of that amount, P359.1 billion was cleared for release to the respective bank accounts of agencies from the Bureau of the Treasury.

The funds form part of the P4.1-trillion national budget this year and were diverted from their original purpose under the outlay which was drafted and passed before the pandemic swept the globe. Fund reallocations were made legally possible by the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act enacted last March and expired last June.

A succeeding measure, Bayanihan to Recover As One (Bayanihan II), was signed last Sept. 11, allowing the government to shell out unplanned expenditures, with additional P165.5 billion in new allocations, due to the pandemic until yearend. 

Under Bayanihan II, cities, towns and municipalities will receive P1.5 billion for their COVID-19 efforts. In a circular dated September 17, the budget department barred LGUs from using the money to fund other projects already covered by other fund sources and cover compensation for staff.

So far, budget figures showed the social welfare department, in-charge of distributing cash aid to poor families hit by the pandemic, cornered the bulk of COVID-19 allotments at P211.6 billion. 

The agency was followed by the finance department, which implemented its own subsidy program to displaced small firm workers, with P88.1 billion, and the health department with P49 billion in allocations for coronavirus response.

From March to September, the bulk of coronavirus allotments amounting to P102 billion were charged against special purpose funds, or lump sum allocations in budget that do not get funneled into specific programs and therefore can fund different projects. 

Of that amount, P96.7 billion was from unprogrammed appropriations, P4 billion came from the calamity fund, P749 million from standby funds for personnel hires and benefits, and P553.1 billion from contingent funds.

Meanwhile, P266.5 billion of total COVID-19 allotments was sourced from discontinued projects by agencies, data showed.

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