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Unspent P6-B Bayanihan 2 fund no longer for SAP — DBM

Elijah Felice Rosales - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The government can no longer use the P6 billion in unspent funds from Bayanihan 2 for a new round of social amelioration program (SAP), according to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, however, said   the government would look for money from available sources to provide cash subsidies to Metro Manila’s poorest families.

According to the DBM, the government has obligated more than 93 percent, or P200.24 billion, of the P214.12 billion in Bayanihan 2 funds.

On the other hand, the government failed to use nearly P14 billion in allocation, of which P5.97 billion expired on June 30 and was returned to the general fund.

Avisado said expired funds can no longer be deployed for the upcoming SAP, as the money needs to be appropriated again before they can be spent.

He said the government is working with local leaders and national agencies to determine how much is needed for another round of cash subsidy program.

Metro Manila is scheduled to be placed under ECQ for the second time this year amid the rising number of new COVID-19 cases.

“We still have to compute that in coordination with the local governments and the Department of Social Welfare and Development,” Avisado told The STAR.

Finance Undersecretary and chief economist Gil Beltran said Metro Manila and its surrounding provinces stand to lose P180 billion, or about one percent of gross domestic product (GDP), in a two-week revert to the strictest restrictions.

“The Department of Trade and Industry said loss from a two-week ECQ is estimated at one percent of GDP or about P180 billion. About 1.5 million workers are going to be displaced in NCR Plus,” Beltran said.

Economists interviewed by The STAR said  the government should increase the cash subsidy to P5,000.

They said a minimum of P5,000 to a maximum of P10,000 can help sustain the daily needs of the more than 47,500 poor families in Metro Manila during the two-week lockdown.

Emmanuel Leyco, president of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, said the government should give P10,000 worth of cash subsidy in Metro Manila during the ECQ.

Leyco, who used to serve as officer in charge of the DSWD, also said local leaders should make sure the state subsidy reaches the intended beneficiaries.

Maria Ella Oplas, economics professor at the De La Salle University, said a maximum of P5,000 should be given to the poorest families to make it through the scheduled ECQ.

Further, Oplas said authorities should capitalize on the ECQ, when mobility restrictions are heightened, to accelerate the speed of the vaccination program.

“The government really needs to speed up the pace of vaccination during the two-week ECQ. It is alarming that despite the efforts, we see our cases rising and the situation worsening,” Oplas said in a phone interview.

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