Palace to realign P150 B for COVID-19 response, prepares recovery plan, stimulus package

Published May 23, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

 

Malacañang said an estimated ₱150 billion from the line budgets of each department in the executive branch can be realigned for the government’s COVID-19 response efforts.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque speaks during a press briefing at the New Executive Building in Malacanang, Friday. (CAMILLE ANTE / MANILA BULLETIN)
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr.(CAMILLE ANTE / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the statement a week after President Duterte ordered Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado to scrutinize the budget of each department to see if there are funds that could be used to address the pandemic.

In an interview over DZBB, Roque said they are still studying how to maximize the amount as excess in expenditure would mean government will have to ask Congress for a supplemental budget.

“For now, we already know how much from the current budgets of the Executive could be realigned. I was told it was around ₱150 billion,” he said Saturday morning.

“That’s why we’re being meticulous about spending the ₱150 billion because going beyond that would mean asking for a supplemental budget. But we cannot have a supplemental budget if we don’t have sources of revenue,” he added.

Quarantine restrictions has resulted in low tax collection and Roque said this is the reason why President Duterte allowed the reopening of the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs). But this is not currently helping government.

“POGOs cannot open because they have unpaid taxes with the Bureau of Internal Revenue so we can’t get anything from them. We’re really in a pickle right now,” Roque said.

“We’re exploring all options but I’m sure we can get through this. We don’t have to worry about anything because we are Filipinos,” he added.

Loans

Roque said the country already applied for loans as an option to address the pandemic. Despite going down a few notches, he claimed the Philippines still enjoys a more favorable credit rating than its neighboring countries.

“Hindi tayo bumaba nang malaki kaya nga nakakautang tayo. At umutang naman tayo habang mababa pa ang interest rate (Our credit rating did not plummet that’s why we were able to borrow and we did that while the interest rates were still low),” he said.

Last month, the World Bank approved a US$100-million loan for the Philippines’ COVID-19 Emergency Response Project to help meet urgent healthcare needs in the wake of the pandemic and bolster the country’s public health preparedness.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) likewise approved a $200-million loan to support the government’s effort to provide emergency cash subsidies to vulnerable households affected by the pandemic.

Recovery plan

Aside from asking Congress for a supplemental budget, Roque said Malacañang will also prepare jointly with Congress a recovery plan and stimulus package to stimulate the economy after taking a hit due to the three-month quarantine to address the health crisis.

“Hindi lang supplemental budget ang hihingin natin. Ang inaayos natin ngayon ay yung recovery plan, yung stimulus package na kinakailangan buuin. Katuwang po natin ang Kongreso dahil kinakailangan nga gamitin natin ang kaban ng bayan para mastimulate ang ating ekonomiya (We’re not just going to ask for a supplemental budget. We’re also working on a recovery plan, a stimulus package. Congress is helping us with this because we need the national budget to stimulate the economy),” he said.

Roque said Malacañang is confident about the recovery plan, which currently has two versions, and backed by a reliable economic team in the persons of Avisado, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua, Senator Ralph Recto, and Representative Joey Salceda.

“We are in safe hands naman po as far as competence in economic planning is concerned,” he said.

The Palace official said they are going to ask Congress to include a COVID-19 fund in the 2021 national budget.

“We will include everything we need in the 2021 budget as long as there is no vaccine or cure for COVID19,” Roque added.

“Even the stimulus package, it will be part of the national budget next year,” he noted.

Roque likewise assured that the “poorest of the poor” will benefit from the stimulus package.

“All our funds will be used for the poorest of the poor,” he said.

But having a stimulus package will not mean the end of the social amelioration program (SAP) since some places can still be on lockdown.

“Local governments can still place certain areas under lockdown. The people in those areas would need to have assistance because they cannot work,” Roque explained.

 
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