“As of today, May 28, 2020, funds amounting to P353.8 billion has already been released to various departments and agencies of the government to support their COVID-related interventions, and this was made possible through the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act,” Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said during a televised press briefing.
STAR/File
P354 billion released for anti-COVID measures
Mary Grace Padin (The Philippine Star) - May 29, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The national government has released P353.86 billion so far to state agencies for the implementation of measures in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said yesterday.

“As of today, May 28, 2020, funds amounting to P353.8 billion has already been released to various departments and agencies of the government to support their COVID-related interventions, and this was made possible through the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act,” Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said during a televised press briefing.

Avisado said P246.53 billion of the total cash releases came from savings generated from discontinued programs, activities and projects in the 2019 and 2020 budgets; P96.7 billion from unprogrammed appropriations; while the remaining P10.6 billion is from reprogramming of existing programs, activities and projects.

He did not provide figures on how much of the total cash allocations have been utilized by the agencies.

In a separate report posted on its website, the DBM said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) received the largest fund during the period, with P199.95 billion in cash allocations for the Social Amelioration Program (SAP).

It was followed by the Department of Finance, which was given P88.02 billion in funds. Of the amount, P51 billion was released to the Social Security System (SSS) for the roll out of the Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) Program while the other P37.02 billion went to the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr), which was distributed as Bayanihan grant to provinces, cities and municipalities. The grant sought to improve the capacity of local government units (LGUs) in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Department of Health, for its part, received P48.13 billion in total cash allocations for the purchase of testing kits, personal protective equipment and medical supplies; hiring of medical staff and other measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

Another P8.5 billion was released to the Department of Agriculture for the implementation of the Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat Kontra COVID-19 Program.

The DBM said about P7.57 billion went to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for the COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program, Emergency Repatriation Program and the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged or Distressed (TUPAD) Workers Program.

Other agencies that received cash allocations during the period were the Department of the Interior and Local Government with P613.73 million; Department of National Defense with P481.52 million; University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital with P400 million; Department of Trade and Industry with P78.14 million; Department of Science and Technology with P54.93 million; Department of Justice with P41.1 million and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process with P21.63 million.

Under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, President Duterte was authorized to order the discontinuance of programs in the 2019 and 2020 General Appropriations Act to generate savings for COVID-19 response.

He is also authorized to reallocate or realign cash, funds, investments, including unutilized subsidies held by government-owned and -controlled corporations to address the health emergency.

Earlier, the BTr said government disbursements in April surged by 108.14 percent to P461.7 billion from P221.8 billion last year. It attributed this acceleration in spending to the implementation of COVID-19 response, including the SAP, SBWS program and Bayanihan grant to LGUs, among others.

In the first four months of the year, government expenditures grew 31.12 percent to reach P1.31 trillion from P999.8 billion in the same period of 2019.

No basis

Avisado also said that the government cannot ask Congress for a supplemental budget to increase the funds for COVID-19 response as it does not have additional sources of revenue.

He noted that the government is having difficulty shoring up additional revenues amid the pandemic.

“The Economic Development Cluster and even the DBCC (Development Budget Coordination Committee) have discussed the possibility of asking for a supplemental budget. For now, we cannot do that because the requirement for a supplemental budget is that we should have a new source of revenues or taxes and second, if we have excess collections. In both cases, there is none,” Avisado said in Filipino. Alexis Romero, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Rainier Allan Ronda, Romina Cabrera

COVID-19 PANDEMIC DEPARTMENT OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT
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