Duterte OKs release of P56.9 B for COVID-19 response

Published October 27, 2020, 5:55 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The government has authorized the release of additional P56.9 billion from the Bayanihan 2 law for the coronavirus-related response programs of various government agencies.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Matina Enclaves in Davao City on October 26, 2020.

The latest allocation came after President Duterte gave Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado the authority to approve the Bayanihan 2 fund requests of agencies, according to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque.

The fund requests of concerned agencies were previously pending before the Office of the President (OP). Roque had earlier claimed that the OP was reviewing the requests if they were necessary and would go to intended beneficiaries.

“Mas mabuti po ang ginawa ni Presidente. Binigyan niya po ng delegated authority si DBM Secretary (Wendel) Avisado para mag-approve na ng release. So hindi na po iyan dadaan sa Office of the Executive Secretary (The President implemented a better move. He gave DBM Secretary Avisado delegated authority to approve the leases. So it won’t pass through the Office of the Executive Secretary anymore),” Roque said during an online Palace press briefing Tuesday.

With the authority given by the President, Roque said Avisado was able to approve the release of funds to the following agencies:

  1. Department of Health, P20.575 billion for health-related responses such augmentation of government hospitals as well as benefits for health workers such as special risk allowances, hazard pay, free life insurance, accommodation, transportation and meals;
  2. Department of Agriculture, P11.632 billion for the Implementation of the Plant, Plant, Plant Program;
  3. Department of Labor and Employment, P8 billion for COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program and Tulong Panghanapbuhay Para sa Ating Displaced/Disadvantaged Workers (TUPAD) Program
  4. Department of Labor and Employment, P5.1 billion for the Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) for displaced overseas Filipino workers;
  5. Department of Social Welfare and Development, P6 billion for Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) and Sustainable Livelihood Program;
  6. National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund, P5 billion for fund augmentation;
  7. Department of Trade and Industry, P100 million for shared service facilities for the “Balik Probinsiya, Bagong Pag-asa Program;”
  8. Local government support fund, P500 million

“Lahat po iyan nai-release ng DBM today dahil hindi na po dadaan sa Office of the President (OP). Delegated na po si Secretary Wendel Avisado to approve the release of these amounts (These have been released by the DBM today because it will not go through the Office of the President. It has been delegated to Secretary Wendel Avisado to approve the release of these amounts),” he said.

Some senators have expressed dismay that billions of funds under the Bayanihan 2 remained unrelated more than a month since Duterte signed the law.

Last week, the DBM announced that of the P140-billion funds available under Bayanihan 2 law, it has released around P4.4 billion to some departments. Around P46 billion worth of funds were still supposedly up for the President’s approval.

The DBM said the OP approval was sought since the funding source will be the balance of pooled savings under Republic Act No. 11469 or the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” consistent with Section 11 of RA No. 11494 or the “Bayanihan to Recover as One Act” and that the authority to use savings was granted by Congress to the President of the Philippines. The DBM is supposed to release the SAROs (Special Allotment Release Orders) following the approval of the President.