By Genalyn Kabiling
The government is not yet inclined to shelve the Build Build Build (BBB) infrastructure program and reallocate its funds for the national government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the government will retain the budget for the infrastructure program and instead look for other sources of funds to meet the challenge posed by the coronavirus.
He said the massive infrastructure program will be crucial in jump-starting the domestic economy affected by the disease outbreak.
“We’re not touching yung ‘Build, Build, Build’ yet. Wala pa tayo doon and the reason for that is that when we jump-start the economy, malaking bahagi ng pag-jump-start ng ekonomiya ang Build, Build, Build (We’re not touch the Build Build Build funds yet. We’ve not yet reached that point and the reason for that is when we jump-start the economy, the ‘Build, Build,’ Build will play a huge part in jump-starting our economy),” he said during a virtual press conference on Wednesday.
“‘Yun ang makaka-rev up at jump-start ng ekomiya natin. Malaking bahagi doon ang ‘Build, Build, Build,’ so, as much as possible, naghahanap pa tayo ng ways and means (The ‘Build, Build, Build’ will greatly help rev up and jump-start our economy, so, as much as possible, we are looking for other ways and means),” he added.
According to Nograles, the heads of the Department of Finance (DOF) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) have been tasked to look for additional funds to boost the government’s resources for the COVID-19 response. He noted that shifting or realigning certain items in the national budget has not yet been been considered by the government.
“Alam natin it is part of what’s written in the law. The President can shift certain items in budget para tugunan ang pangangailangan natin sa COVID 19 pero wala pa tayo sa point na yan (We know it is part of what’s written in the law. The President can shift certain items in the budget to address our COVID-19 needs but we have not reached that point yet),” he said.
“Nandun pa tayo sa paghanap ng sources of funds na puwede natin gamitin and si (We are still looking for sources of funds that we can use) Secretary of Finance and Secretary of Budget and Management are really looking for ways and means to find other sources of funds,” he added.
Amid the rising cases of infections in the country, President Duterte recently expressed concern that the P270 billion allocation authorized for dealing with the coronavirus emergency, including the relief aid for the poor, would not be enough. Before the government runs out of reserves, Duterte has directed the finance department to source additional funds.
In a recent report to Congress, the President said more than P189 billion in unreleased funds from the 2019 and 2020 national budgets could be redirected to fund COVID-related mitigation measures. Most of these resources come from capital outlays, maintenance and other operating expenses and personnel services, and financial expenses.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has called for prudent spending of funds given the uncertainties posed by the coronavirus. He recognized the need to prudently marshal resources and prepare for all eventualities. He said it is uncertain how long the contagion will last and warned that government funds are “not inexhaustible.”