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Government ready to seek supplemental budget for ayuda

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Government ready to seek supplemental budget for ayuda
The administration has set aside P13.1 billion to help 10.7 million residents of Metro Manila, which is now under the strictest enhanced community quarantine until Aug. 20.
STAR / Walter Bollozos, file

MANILA, Philippines — The government has enough funds to provide aid to people in areas under lockdown but is open to seeking a supplemental budget if the identified funding sources are insufficient, Malacañang said yesterday.

The administration has set aside P13.1 billion to help 10.7 million residents of Metro Manila, which is now under the strictest enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) until Aug. 20.

Another P1 billion will be spent to help one million residents of Iloilo province, Iloilo City, Cagayan de Oro City, and Gingoog City, which have been under lockdown since July 16. The classification will lapse on Aug. 7.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that if funding for aid becomes insufficient, the government would source additional funds from savings and dividends of government-owned and controlled corporations.

“Let’s just say that it’s not an issue of whether there are funds because we will look for funds; because the mandate of the President is do not impose ECQ without aid,” Roque said in Filipino.

“If it’s not enough, we will seek a supplemental budget from Congress. We won’t run out of funds. That’s our assurance to our countrymen,” he added.

Roque, however, said the government would check whether there are enough funds before asking for a supplemental budget.

“We do not want to make promises if we do not have funding sources,” he said in Filipino.

“You can come up with a supplemental budget, you can promise aid but if you do not have funding sources, where will you get it? We cannot always resort to borrowings because eventually, we have to pay for them. Our economic team is cautious in borrowing because we do not know how long this pandemic will last,” he said.

Each qualified beneficiary will receive P1,000 while a family can get as much as P4,000. Some sectors, however, claimed that that financial assistance is not enough to cover the costs of workers displaced by lockdowns.

Roque, however, is hopeful that the current lockdown in Metro Manila would be the last as the number of vaccinated persons continues to increase.

He noted that in the capital region, the number of vaccinated persons is already close to 50 percent of the target population.

“Maybe after the ECQ, we will have the 50 percent already so we expect this to be the last lockdown at least in Metro Manila,” the Palace spokesman said.

“So do not worry, our way of life is not like this forever because the vaccine is the key to returning to our normal lives,” he added.

Roque also shrugged off criticisms that the aid to be given to ECQ areas is too small. Vice President Leni Robredo previously proposed the suspension of the funding for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and to use its budget instead to help lockdown-affected families.

“Hay naku, napapagod na po akong sumagot. Sabihin na lang niya ang kaniyang gustong sabihin (I’m tired of responding. She can say what she wants to say),” Roque said.

“I know it’s election time but the government won’t promise something it cannot give. The (NTF-ELCAC)) is the solution to end a conflict here in our country. We are giving funds for projects that will benefit barangays affected by the conflict and we know that hunger is the cause of a conflict,” he added.

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