By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
A federation of teachers on Wednesday slammed the “no money” claim of President Duterte and urged the government to fully account for COVID-19 funds which should have prioritized social services in the recovery program.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines questioned the billions of government-amassed COVID-19 response funds from loans, grants, and realigned agency coffers. “We are perplexed to hear the President say we’re out of funds, when other officials boast of new sources of funding on a nearly daily basis,” said ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio.
In his televised address late Monday night, Duterte said that he will try to look for funds that would help the implementation of the Department of Education’s (DepEd) blended and distance learning programs.
“We will try to come up with something in the next few days. Maybe before the end of the week, I would be able to look for the money. Wala na tayong pera ngayon. I would look for the money to buy transistor radios to be distributed all throughout the country,” he said.
However, ACT questioned the President’s declaration that the country currently has no money to buy the needed gadgets. “President Duterte himself has repeatedly assured the public that we have sufficient resources to weather the storm, especially since the granting of his emergency powers which gave him huge budgetary control,” Basilio said.
“What’s even more alarming is that these funds have not been fully accounted, yet he’s already claiming it has run out,” he added.
ACT noted that the Duterte administration “started with P270 billion COVID-19 war chest” upon the approval of the Bayanihan To Heal As One Act in March of this year. The group also cited the pronouncement of Department of Finance (DOF) that the government is planning to spend around P600 billion in its COVID-19 efforts—half of which will come from loans in April.
“As of June 4, the Philippine government has secured US$3.95 billion or P197.7 billion in foreign loans,” ACT said. “By June 9, media reports show that the total loans and grants acquired by the Philippines for its COVID-19 response has reached U$6.5 billion or over P325 billion,” it added.
The group also pointed out the information coming from the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that the country has “received a total of U$130.4 million or P6.5 billion from private sector donations.”
“These figures suggest that we have massive funds not only to strengthen our response to the health and socio-economic crisis fueled by the pandemic, but also to adequately provide for all-time essential services such as education,” Basilio noted.
The group added that the collected funds will be used to ensure business profits as ‘Build, Build, Build’ is among the priority projects under the recovery program. “If the government can gather funds to aid big business, it absolutely can and should allocate resources for social services,” Basilio said.