Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte said the fund would be sourced from the realignment of savings in the executive branch, totaling P275 billion, as authorized by Congress in the newly enacted Republic Act 11469
STAR/ File
P200 billion eyed for virus-affected poor households
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - March 27, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The government will allot P200 billion to address the needs of 18 million poor families affected by government measures to combat the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the House of Representatives said yesterday.

Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte said the fund would be sourced from the realignment of savings in the executive branch, totaling P275 billion, as authorized by Congress in the newly enacted Republic Act 11469 (Bayanihan to Heal as One Act).

He said P200 billion will be allotted for the emergency program for 18 million households for two months, while the balance of P75 billion will go to “health-related initiatives and other services.”

The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) has also released an initial fund of P1.6 billion to cover the cost of hospitalization of COVID-19 patients.

PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales also assured health workers that all their medical expenses will be paid for as he belied reports that some hospitals may close down due to the delay in the payment of claims.

Villafuerte said that while the government also needs to address other concerns, such as the other sectors affected by the pandemic, Congress wanted to prioritize the needs of 18 million poor families who have no means to survive and were deprived of their means of livelihood following the implementation of the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

Aside from the P275-billion fund, President Duterte could also raise at least P160 billion more from “unused” operating expenses for agencies this year.

“These are programmed and budgeted expenses we clearly can scrimp on or do away with while we are battling this pandemic…We can use the money to buy badly needed personal protective equipment items for our frontline health workers or as subsidy to the poor who are forced to stay home,” said Rep. Mike Defensor.

However, the Palace has yet to come up with the breakdown on the realigned budget under the law signed by Duterte last Tuesday night.

Villafuerte assured the public that Congress will exercise its oversight functions to ensure that there would be no misuse of the funds or abuse in the special but limited powers granted to the President. He cited the provision in RA 11469 that requires the Palace to submit to Congress a detailed weekly report.

Last week, the Duterte administration’s economic team announced a P27.1-billion stimulus package to finance efforts to fight COVID-19, including programs and projects to support the tourism industry, acquisition of test kits, social protection programs for vulnerable workers and packages for affected businesses.

The funds came from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). – With Delon Porcalla, Mayen Jaymalin

COVID 19 LRAY VILLAFUERTE
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