DBM: No new revenue sources for supplemental budget for COVID-19 response

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
DBM: No new revenue sources for supplemental budget for COVID-19 response
In this photo taken March 13, 2020, personnel from the Quezon City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office and the City Health Department train to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The government cannot seek a supplemental budget to support its coronavirus response because it does not have new revenue sources or excess tax collections, the budget department said Thursday.

The Duterte administration is seeking funds to buy medical equipment and to provide aid for low-income households and workers who were sidelined by quarantine restrictions. Officials previously said the government may ask Congress to pass a supplemental budget and a stimulus package that would allow the economy to bounce back and revive consumer confidence.

"For now, we cannot do that because the requirement for the supplemental budget is we should have a new source of revenues or taxes and second, we should have excess collections. In both cases, there is none," Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said at a press briefing.

"There is no basis for a supplemental budget. It’s really a combination of monetary and fiscal policies of the government and the other one, really is... we need to sacrifice some of these projects so we can use them for COVID (coronavirus disease)," he added.

Finance department data showed that collections of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs dropped in April as quarantine measures forced thousands of businesses to suspend operations.

Total collections of the BIR and BOC in the first four months totaled P527.41 billion, lower by P179.37 billion than the amount collected in the same period last year.  Actual BIR collection during the period was short of P1.02 billion or 0.19 percent of the target of P528.44 billion. The BoC, meanwhile, was short of its P206.59 billion goal by P27.15 billion or 13.14 percent.

Avisado said that, as of Thursday, P353.8 billion has been released to various departments and agencies of the government to support their coronavirus-related interventions.

Of the amount, about P246 billion came from pooled savings, P96.7 billion was sourced from unprogrammed appropriation and P10.6 billion came from reprogramming of beneficiaries and purpose of existing programs, activities and projects.

"This was made possible through the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act which authorized the President to realign, reallocate and reprogram both the 2019 and the 2020 budgets respectively," the budget chief said.

Avisado said the budget department has been instructed to use whatever funds are available to respond to the pandemic.

"But we cannot cancel projects because they are in the GAA (General Appropriations Act). So that means, it's like borrowing the money while we are checking how much will be left. If there is money left, agencies would discuss what projects will be prioritized or most needed and we will use the remaining money for the year to fund them," he added.

Avisado said P100 billion has been released to the social welfare department while P1.5 billion has been disbursed to the labor department for its programs for migrant workers.

The national government has also provided P30.8 billion in Bayanihan grants to cities and municipalities to allow them to respond to their local concerns.

The government has also released P1.9 billion to purchase detection kits and P8.5 billion to support agriculture and food security initiatives. With regard to unprogrammed appropriations, the government released 51 Pbillion to cover the requirements for the small business wage subsidy program and P47.5 billion for the requirements of the health department.

"This is a continuing saga and we need to be really prepared particularly on the matter of providing the necessary funding support to all of our activities in response to COVID," Avisado said.

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