Gov't can tap P800 B for COVID-19 fight from budget, dividends, securities deal
A volunteer arranges lit candles in a formation to read "Fight Covid-19" during the Earth Hour environmental campaign near a catholic church in Borongan City, Eastern Samar province, on March 28, 2020.
AFP/Alren Beronio

Gov't can tap P800 B for COVID-19 fight from budget, dividends, securities deal

Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - April 2, 2020 - 10:42am

MANILA, Philippines — The government can tap more than P800 billion from budgets of agencies, unreleased funds, dividends, and a repurchase deal with the central bank for its campaign against the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19), a Malacañang report submitted to Congress showed.

Data from President Rodrigo Duterte's report on the implementation of the Luzon-wide lockdown showed that more than P200 billion would come from unreleased appropriations under the special purpose funds.

Unreleased appropriations consist of budgetary support to government corporations (P145.717 billion) and allocation to local government units from the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (P1.047 billion), special shares of local governments in the proceeds of national taxes (P28.414 billion), barangay officials death benefits fund (P50 million), local government support fund (P27.31 billion), special shares of local governments in the proceeds of fire code fees (P365 million), and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (P7 billion). The unreleased appropriations totaled P209.907 billion.

The Bayanihan Act, which provides Duterte additional powers to fight COVID-19, allows the president to consider abandoned the purpose of any unused or unreleased balance as of March 9, the date of the declaration of state of public health emergency. All such funds, including future collections and receipts, shall be deemed appropriated for measures to address COVID-19.

The report said the budget department has also asked three agencies to use their released allotment to accommodate their respective COVID-19 response activities.

These agencies are the social welfare department, which has allotment releases for the Panwawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, a cash transfer program that provides cash assistance to low-income families (P108.765 billion), social pension for indigents (P23.184 billion), assistance for indigents in crisis situations (P6.608 billion), and quick response fund (P1.25 billion); the health department, which has allocation for medical assistance to indigent patients (P9.44 billion), and quick response funds (P500 million); and the energy department, which has a budget for a livelihood and internship program for disadvantaged and displaced workers (P4.357 billion). The total amount involved in the allotment releases of the three agencies is 154.105 billion.

The national government also added P300 billion to its cash reserves by forging a repurchase agreement facility with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. Under the deal, the national government can convert up to P300 billion of government securities holdings into cash and will have to repurchase them within six months. The Bureau of Treasury (BTr) has said the agreement is the most cost-effective way to provide an extra lifeline to the national government as it combats COVID-19.

Duterte said the finance department has also collected P100 billion worth of dividends from government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), including excess and unprogrammed revenues.

The BTr and the budget department have also crafted guidelines that would enable the transfer of excess and unauthorized balances of national government agencies and GOCCs to support the social amelioration program for sectors affected by the lockdown.  

"The BTr has identified an estimated amount of over P100 billion as eligible for the 'cash sweep,'" Duterte said in the report.

Last Monday, Duterte assured the public that the government has enough funds to respond to COVID-19 and to help low-income families and workers sidelined by the pandemic.

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