By Genalyn Kabiling
The government has so far released P353.8 billion for various coronavirus response programs but will not seek a supplemental budget from Congress for now, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said Thursday.
Avisado explained that the government has no new revenue sources and excess collection that will fund any supplement or additional budget that may be requested from Congress.
At present, the government’s COVID-19 response budget is mostly sourced from pooled savings from discontinued programs as well as unprogrammed appropriations in the 2020 national budget.
“Napag-usapan sa economic development cluster at DBCC yung posibilidad na kung puwede tayo maglahad sa supplemental budget. Sa ngayon po, hindi po natin puwedeng gawin ‘yan dahil ang requirement ng supplemental budget ay mayroon tayong new source of revenues or taxes at pangalawa kung mayroon excess sa collection natin. In both cases, wala po (We discussed in the economic development cluster and DBCC the possibility if we will ask for a supplemental budget. For now, we cannot do that because the requirement for supplemental budget is e must have new source of revenues or taxes. Second, we must have excess collection. In both cases, we don’t have those),” he said during a Palace press briefing aired on state television.
“So wala pong pagbabasehan ang ating pinag-iisipang supplemental budget (So there will be no basis for the proposed supplemental budget),” he said.
As of May 28, Avisado said the DBM has released P353,860,215,840.25 to various departments and agencies to support their COVID-19 programs.
Of the COVID-19 budget, he said the government drew P246,526,427,356.00 from pooled savings, P96,717,896,630.00 from Unprogrammed Appropriation, and P10,615,891,854.25 from reprogramming of beneficiaries and purpose of existing programs, activities and projects.
“This was made possible through the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act which authorized the President to realign, reallocate and reprogram both the 2019 and the 2020 budgets respectively, he said.
Bayanihan law extension
Meanwhile, Avisado has welcomed the proposed three-month extension of the Bayanihan law by Congress leaders so the President can exercise his authority to come up with funds for the coronavirus response.
Under Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, the President is authorized to discontinue appropriated programs of any agency in the executive branch in the 2019 and 2020 national budget to augment COVID-19 operations.
The Bayanihan law also allows the President to reprogram, reallocate, and realign from savings in budget items, as well as allocate cash, funds, and investments held by national government agencies and state corporations to effectively address the pandemic.
“We’re glad that both houses – the House of Representatives and the Senate — have come up with a unified decision to extend the validity up to another three months or at least up to September so by then patuloy lang din ang ginagawa na mandato sa ating Pangulo na tugunan kung ano pa pangangailangan at gamitin na available na pera natin (so the President can continue his mandate to address our needs and use the available funds),” he said.
The President earlier directed his economic team to find funding sources for the coronavirus response amid concerns the government was running low on funds. Apart from borrowing funds from lenders, he said the government may sell some government properties to augment the funds for COVID relief efforts.