P46 billion COVID-19 response budget submitted for Duterte approval

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) – October 23, 2020 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Requests for the release of P46 billion for various projects aimed at cushioning the impact of the raging pandemic have been submitted to President Duterte’s office for approval, the budget department said yesterday.

Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said there are no “bottlenecks” in the release of funds under the Bayanihan 2 Act, but requesting agencies should follow all processes. He stressed there was no intention on their part to delay the release of the funds.

“The request of DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) is now with the Office of the President, that’s about P46.2 billion, and there’s another P24.6 billion (that is being processed). So the efforts are visible here,” Avisado said at a press briefing.

“The law states that it’s only the President who can approve all of these, so, we need to transmit it to him. Once he approves it, we will issue a SARO (special allotment release order) and NCA (notice of cash allocation),” he added.

Department of Budget and Management data showed that the release of P46.2 billion for four projects has been recommended to the Office of the President.

The projects to be funded are the labor department’s COVID-19 adjustment measures program and Tulong Panghanapbuhay Para sa Ating Displaced/Disadvantaged Workers or TUPAD program (P8 billion); DSWD’s Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation and Sustainable Livelihood Program (P6 billion); agriculture department’s Plant, Plant, Plant program (P11.63 billion); and health-related responses like the hiring of human resources, augmentation for the operations of hospitals under the health department, special risk allowances, and hazard pay and other benefits of health workers (P20.575 billion).

“They are checking if the budget (requests) are really justified,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

Some senators have criticized the budget department for not releasing most of the funds under the Bayanihan 2 Act, which aims to support programs designed to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Malacañang has said the Bayanihan 2 funds could still be used even after the law expires on Dec. 19.

Out of the P140 billion worth of COVID-19-related interventions, the DBM has released only P4.41 billion.

The fund releases sought to finance the hiring and training of contact tracers (P2.52 billion); construction and maintenance of isolation facilities (P855 million); COVID-19 local government support fund (P215.48 million); and assistance to nationals fund of the foreign affairs department (P820 million).

“We are doing everything to act on the requests immediately. The secretaries know that we have processes. They have to submit a special budget request and the budget execution document pertaining to the financial plan, another budget execution document pertaining to your monthly disbursement program and the justification,” Avisado said.

“All these are being evaluated and they (agencies) will not run out of funds. It won’t happen because while we are processing their requests, they have money they can spend because we are making sure that they have money while their requests for additional funds are being processed,” he added.

Avisado said the budget department could not just release money to agencies with a lot of unused funds.

“I hope they understand that the DBM does not delay the funding of the government. That’s our job to ensure that each agency of the government has funds,” he said.

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