Gov't spent P389.6 B for pandemic response -- DBM

The government has so far spent P389.06 billion for various programs needed to address the coronavirus pandemic, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado announced Tuesday.


Avisado said the bulk of the COVID budget was allocated to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) with P211.6 billion allocation to implement the social amelioration program.

Under the subsidy program, Avisado said the DSWD has provided financial aid to 17.6 million low income families under the first tranche. Another 13.3 million people benefited from the second tranche of the cash subsidies to cope with the pandemic.

"This was made possible due to the passage fo Bayanihan To Heal as One Act. The government was able to shore up resources to fund critical programs, activities and projects," Avisado said during a televised press briefing Tuesday in announcing the latest COVID budget figures.

Based on the COVID fund releases as of August 28, Avisado said around P51 billion went to the Department of Finance for the implementation of the small business wage subsidy program.

The Department of Health received P48.98 billion for programs related to fighting the pandemic. The funds were set aside for the provision of hazard payments and special risk allowances of health workers, procurement of protective equipment, and purchase of COVID-19 testing kits, among others.

The Bayanihan grant given to municipalities, cities, and provinces reached P37.02 billion while Department of Education got P10.91 billion for its Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan.

At least P11.39 billion went to the Department of Agriculture for the implementation of "Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat ( ALPAS) Kontra sa COVID-19" program.

The Department of Labor got P7.44 billion to assist workers displaced by the pandemic. The two programs are COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) and  Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD).

Around P5.15 billion was used to finance the cash assistance program for overseas Filipino workers affected by the pandemic.

According to Avisado, the COVID funds were sourced from pooled savings from discontinued programs, activities and projects (P266.53 billion), special purpose funds (P102.06 billion), and regular budget of agencies (P20.48 billion).

He said the government is ready to release at least P140 billion more to support the proposed Bayanihan 2 law.

The measure, which aims further strengthen pandemic response and facilitate economic recovery, has recently been submitted by Congress to the Office of the President for action.

Avisado said the Bayanihan 2 bill is currently being reviewed by the Office of Executive Secretary. Afterwards, it is expected to be submitted to President for his decision.

The Bayanihan II provides a P140-billion in regular appropriation with P25.5 billion in standby funds. The total amount of the proposed stimulus bill is P165.5 billion. The bill aims to bankroll various programs such as improvement of health care resources, assistance to industries and workers affected by the pandemic, and procurement of COVID vaccines.

Avisado also said they have submitted to Congress the proposed P4.506 trillion national budget for next year. The education sector will get the biggest shared of the budget with 754.4 billion.

He said the budget hearings in Congress are expected to start next week.

More than 220,000 people have been infected with the coronavirus in the country while 3,558 passed away due to the illness as of August 31.

The country is largely under the relaxed lockdown after the government sought to revitalize the sluggish economy and allow people to get back to work. Testing, tracing and treatment efforts have also been accelerated to contain the outbreak while waiting for the coronavirus vaccine.