^
Government to implement austerity measures if budget falls short
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said economic managers are still studying whether there is a need for a third tranche of the Bayanihan law, legislation that allocated funds for the administration’s COVID-19 response.
Presidential Photo/Yancy Lim

Government to implement austerity measures if budget falls short

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - May 11, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The government is expected to implement austerity measures if this year’s national budget is not enough to fund pandemic-related expenses, Malacañang said yesterday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said economic managers are still studying whether there is a need for a third tranche of the Bayanihan law, legislation that allocated funds for the administration’s COVID-19 response.

“The position of economic managers is to wait until the 2021 budget is spent because a lot of funds are allocated for COVID,” he said at a press briefing.

“If the 2021 budget is not enough, the first thing that (Budget) Secretary (Wendel) Avisado does is to ask the departments for a certain percentage of funding from their budget and that’s what we call an austerity measure. That’s the first thing we would do to find funds for our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) and other costs related to COVID,” he added.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) reportedly needs more than P9 billion to finance the costs of quarantine accommodations of returning OFWs, which include quarantine hotel facilities, transportation and food.

Roque said the government is looking for ways to raise the funds.?“OWWA is seeking P9 billion because of the longer quarantine. It was relayed to the President through a memorandum by Secretary Avisado. The issue is where to get the funds. But we are planning to tap funding sources for that,” the Palace spokesman.

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, chairman of the House ways and means committee, said the national government can perhaps learn from the new US administration under President Biden, specifically Washington’s infrastructure plan.

“We can get future revenue flows whose present value equivalent meets the need for Bayanihan 3,” he said, noting that the House leadership and the economic managers will meet on May 12 to discuss the issue.

“My advice to both my colleagues in the House and my counterparts in the economic team is that, while we must guard our deficit levels, we should not fixate on existing fiscal limitations. How we pay for Bayanihan 3 can be annuitized to some number of years, through gaming taxes on POGOs and e-sabong, for example,” Salceda added, referring to the China-based Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators and the digital cockfight among aficionados.

The House official acknowledged though that they “will have to meet at some figure, but the responsibility of Congress is to present the needs of the people first, and then adjust our response based on the availability of new or existing funding.”

Meanwhile, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the government would end the distribution of cash aid for tourism workers effective yesterday, noting that the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has already reached the target beneficiaries.

DOLE information and publication service director Rolly Francia reported that the department has disbursed a total of P2.6 billion to displaced tourism workers.

He also said that a total of 520,000 tourism workers have received the P5,000 cash aid while the application of 215,000 others is under evaluation and processing. – Delon Porcalla, Mayen Jaymalin

NATIONAL BUDGET
Philstar
  • Latest
  • Trending
Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?
X
Login

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

FORGOT PASSWORD?
SIGN IN
or sign in with