Lacson quizzes DBM why P30-B COVID-19 response funds have not been disbursed

Senator Panfilo Lacson quizzed the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) yesterday about some P30-billion COVID-19 response funds that have not been disbursed by government agencies.

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson

During the Senate Committee on Finance's public hearing on the P4.506-trillion proposed 2021 national budget, Lacson raised that of the more than P389 billion released by the DBM to various agencies to respond to the coronavirus outbreak and its impacts, only P359 billion have actually been spent, according to the department's August 28 summary of COVID-19 releases.

He reiterated his inquiry on Thursday and asked DBM Secretary Wendel Avisado where the P30-billion unused funds went.

"Sapat na ba ang pangangailangan ng targeted beneficiaries (Have we satisfied the needs of our targeted beneficiaries)?" Lacson asked, citing complaints from local government units about the delay in the distribution of the subsidies under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, as well as other sectors.

"I’d like to find out bakit 'di na-disburse ito, 'di na-release (why were these funds not disbursed, not released) in spite of DBM having issued allotments to these agencies," he added.

Avisado, in response, said that of the P30 billion, P12 billion was with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD); P2.7 billion with the Department of Public Works and Highways; about P500 million with the Office of Civil Defense; and P15 million with the Department of Labor and Employment and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

These agencies have requested for funds to replenish their quick response fund (QRF), he explained.

He said he cannot explain for the agencies on their disbursements of the funds, but maintained that the DBM has released all of their cash allocations.

The P389-billion COVID-19 response fund was sourced from the appropriation of agencies in 2019 and 2020 as authorized by the Bayanihan Act.

The DBM earlier reported that a huge chunk of the budget -- P211.6 billion -- was allocated to the DSWD to implement the social amelioration program.

Lacson said he will again ask the concerned agencies about their failure to disburse the COVID-19 funds.