By Argyll Cyrus Geducos, Vanne Elaine Terrazola, and Ellson Quismorio
President Duterte has ordered Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado to “circumcise” the budgets of line government agencies to fund the second tranche of the social amelioration program (SAP).
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the announcement as the whole country transitions into general community quarantine (GCQ) today, except Metro Manila, Laguna, and Cebu City, which have been placed under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) until May 31.
In an interview with GMA-7, Roque said the President ordered Avisado on Thursday to scrutinize the budget of every line department to see if there are funds that can be realigned and be used for the second tranche of the SAP.
“Ang kanyang salita ay ‘tuliin’ niya yung mga budgets ng mga line departments at tingnan natin kung mabibigyan talaga lahat doon sa second tranche (His order to Secretary Avisado was to ‘circumcise’ the budgets of line department and see if we can give assistance to all during the second tranche),” he said Friday.
“Tingnan kung magkano ang pupwedeng ma-realign, tingnan kung ano ang pupwedeng ibenta. Pero sa ngayon po, hanggang doon lang muna tayo dahil tinitingnan muna ni Presidente (Secretary Avisado will see if there are funds that can be realigned or if there are assets we can sell. For now, that’s all we can say because the President will still look into it),” he added.
Roque said President Duterte will also ask Congress to help find the additional funding for the second tranche of SAP.
He said the President is determined to stay true to his promise to not let any Filipino go hungry during the quarantine period, especially at a time when a typhoon has hit the country.
“We confirm that PRRD will ask the assistance of Congress in the finding of additional funding for the second tranche of the Social Amelioration Program to complete the rollout of aid to poor and lowincome families,” he added.
It was initially decided that only those under the MECQ will be receiving the second tranche of the emergency subsidy.
According to Roque, the government is nearly scraping the bottom of the barrel, especially with the addition of 5 million more families as beneficiaries of the SAP.
“Konti na lang po ang natitirang pondo doon sa ₱205 billion, so kinakailangan maghanap muna ng karagdagang pondo bago magkaroon ng desisyon kung bibigyan ang lahat (There’s not much left from the allotted ₱205 billion so we need to look for funds before deciding to give cash aid to everyone).
It’s all mathematics po and budget,” he said.
In an interview with ANC, Roque said a staggering additional ₱50 billion is needed to give cash aide to all 23 million beneficiaries in the second tranche. Still, Roque said the priority is to assist those from the MECQ.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III welcomed on Friday the government’s reconsideration of the emergency subsidy program for indigent families in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ).
“That’s good news,” Sotto said.
Sotto said the cash aid for informal sector families should continue even if the lockdown rules had been relaxed in most parts of the country.
Cagayan de Oro City 2nd district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said all 18 million poor or low-income families supposedly covered by SAP should still get their final and second tranche of the emergency subsidy, if the law is to be followed.
“Limiting the coverage of financial assistance under the Bayanihan Law will be discriminatory and unfair to poor families in the provinces who are under GCQ,” he said.