By Raymund Antonio
Instead of selling government assets, the administration should spend the remaining 2019 budget to fund programs in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Vice President Leni Robredo said.
“Kasi kung mayroon naman tayong pera, hindi naman kailangang magbenta. In fact, pinapakitang datos na marami pa tayong hindi nagastos nga for 2019. Iyon na muna iyong unahin,” she said.
(If we have money, there is no need to sell anything. In fact, data show we have not spend much for 2019. Let us prioritize that.)
This was Robredo’s response during her weekly radio show when asked to react to President Duterte’s remark he would sell government assets as “last resort” if funds for anti-coronavirus measures run out.
“What is the end game? If our funds run out, I’ll sell all properties of the government. The Cultural Center of the Philippines, PICC (Philippine International Convention Center), the land there,” Duterte said.
“When I can’t get any more funds and we are about to sink and really sink, I will sell all the assets of the government and use it to help the people,” he added.
But Robredo argued the sale of government properties is not necessary if available funds to
address the COVID-19 outbreak are enough.
The vice president said last year’s unobligated appropriations has an “advantage” as it could be realigned for COVID-19 response.
Duterte signed Republic Act 11464 last December to extend the validity of the 2019 budget until this year.
With these additional funds, Robredo, an opposition leader, stressed the country’s healthcare system should be given priority.
“Iyong pangangailangan talaga ngayon, hindi lang iyong aasikasuhin natin iyong communities, pero titingnan natin ano ba iyong capacity ng ating healthcare system, ano iyong capacity ng ating mga ospital,” she said.
(The primary needs now are not only to take care of the communities, but also to look into the capacity of our healthcare system, what’s the capacity of our hospitals.)
”Kapag nag-peak pa tayo, kaya ba ng mga ospital na i-take in? Hindi lang sa espasyo pero sa number ng health workers, sa gamit. Ngayon, ang tinitingnan natin, kapag gumrabe pa ito, enough ba iyong mga oxygen saka iyong ating ventilators?” she added.
(When the cases peak, are the hospitals capable to take in patients? It’s not only space, but also in the number of health workers, equipment. Now if this gets worse, are the oxygen and our ventilators enough?)