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Probe on utilization of Bayanihan funds pressed

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
Probe on utilization of Bayanihan funds pressed
“There is still time for the House to carry out our year-ago motion for the chamber to exercise its oversight powers to dig deep into the implementation and utilization of appropriated funds,” Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte said.
STAR / Ernie Penaredondo, file

MANILA, Philippines — A senior administration lawmaker has urged his colleagues in the House of Representatives to verify the fund utilization of the two Bayanihan laws that Congress approved during the pandemic so as to prevent a repeat of “project hitches.”

“There is still time for the House to carry out our year-ago motion for the chamber to exercise its oversight powers to dig deep into the implementation and utilization of appropriated funds,” Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte said.

He was referring to Bayanihan 1 and 2, or Republic Acts 11469 and 11494, respectively.

He said his call is aimed at “correcting project hitches that have marred or delayed the implementation of stimulus and bailout programs for sectors or industries hit hard by the two-year pandemic.”

“It is our hope that before the 18th Congress ends in June, the House will be able to help the Executive department tweak its current programs with a view to utilizing funds for COVID-19 response or other future public emergencies in the most prudent, efficient and timely manner,” the Bicolano congressman said.

He said providing a clear picture of fund utilization would “subsequently enable the Congress to help the national government avoid implementation fiascos and improve the absorptive capacity of agencies that will handle future programs related to COVID-19 response and other emergencies.”

House Resolution 1731, which he introduced with former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and five others in April 2021, sought an examination of the use of the appropriated outlays for RA 11469 and RA 11494.

“By conducting such an inquiry into the absorptive capacity of IAs (implementing agencies), we could eventually identify the project hitches and avoid implementation blunders, such as the fiasco committed by our tourism officials in prioritizing state rehabilitation funds for soft loans to tourism-related establishments instead of for building infrastructure for tourism services in preparation for the complete reopening of our tourist destinations for both domestic and foreign tourists,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Stella Quimbo said micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) severely affected by the pandemic should be given subsidies to help them recover as soon as possible.

“I hope that the economic managers seriously consider expanding the various subsidy programs for MSMEs, such as DTI’s Livelihood Seeding Program-Negosyo Serbisyo Sa Barangay,” Quimbo said.

“In the wake of series of lockdowns and closure of businesses during the pandemic, these MSMEs have of course been scared to be drowned with loans, precisely because of the uncertainty brought about by the government restrictions,” she said.

“Subsidies are especially important today, with the series of oil price hikes,” she said, noting that “many MSMEs are unbanked because many belong to the informal sector.”

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