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DBM checking uncommitted funds for possible realignment

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
DBM checking uncommitted funds for possible realignment
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the budget department has asked agencies to submit by April 30 the data on their uncommitted funds so these can be used for “other purposes.”
STAR / Joven Cagande, file

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang is checking how much money from agency budgets can be realigned to its coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) response to determine if it needs to seek a supplemental budget from Congress. 

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the budget department has asked agencies to submit by April 30 the data on their uncommitted funds so these can be used for “other purposes.”

“After April 30, we will have a better picture on how much can be realigned,” he said at a press briefing yesterday. 

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) defines a commitment as an obligation incurred by government agencies for which items have not been delivered and services not yet rendered.

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

It also allows the President to direct the discontinuance of appropriated programs, projects, or activities of any agency of the executive department including government-owned and controlled corporations in the 2019 and 2020 budgets, and whose allotments for which remain unobligated, and use the savings to fund items related to containing the pandemic. 

Roque said the government has enough funds to support its COVID-19 measures even if the enhanced community quarantine has been extended by two weeks in high-risk areas.

“We have money but number one, subject to realignment and we will determine by April 30 what budget of line agencies can be realigned. Number two, if it is still not sufficient because the authority granted is for the realignment of funds, then we will ask for a supplemental (budget),” he pointed out.

Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado told The STAR last Sunday that a supplemental budget is not yet being discussed although the option would be considered if there are available funds.

Citing DBM figures, Roque said the government has spent about P350 billion out of the P400 billion outlay for COVID-19-related expenses.  

“We will see that the budget allotted for COVID is almost used up. We may need to go back to Congress for our needs. Although we still have funds, we cannot use them without authorization of Congress,” Roque said.  

Roque said the total unreleased budget from the 2019 general appropriations is about P77 billion. 

With regard to Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s call for the government to realign P84 billion worth of “pork insertions” of some lawmakers in this year’s budget, Roque said it would be up to the concerned agencies to decide on the matter.  

“The DBM will not decide on the realignment. It would be the line departments. When it comes to projects of senators and congressmen, we are leaving it to Secretary (Mark) Villar because the projects are under the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways). We are leaving it to Sec. Villar to decide whether he would realign the funds,” Roque said. 

Lacson previously said the P84 billion worth of “pork insertions” could be used to mitigate the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. He noted that the budget department had withheld the release of the funds. 

DBM

SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET

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