The Senate version of the proposed P4.5 trillion General Appropriations Bill (GAB or national budget) includes an P83 billion allocation for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine.
This was revealed today by Senator Grace Poe during a TV interview as chairmen of the Senate and House of Representatives bicameral conference committee panels are still attempting to iron out the differing provisions of their GAB versions.
‘’So there’s quite a bit. Of course we still need more, but there’s P83 billion allotted for that. And then we also added for contact tracers. We put more, let’s say, for PCR testing and then P3 billion for PPEs (personal protective equipment), P4.5 billion for increasing hospital capacity. And then P13.5 billion for risk allowance of health workers,’’ she explained.
Poe said the P83 billion is an accumulation of the Senate’s ability to transfer funds from other departments to the vaccine purchase program because of their absorptive capacity problems, among others.
‘’And we need those frontliners, we need the response, we need the vaccine, we need the testing, and the PPEs, etc,’’ she said.
The House had a P5.5 billion appropriation for the purchase of vaccine based on its version of the budget.
Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, an anti-pork barrel advocate, earlier said that there are less than P400 billion ‘’lump sums’’ or re-appropriated sums embedded in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) budget.
Lump sum appropriations had been declared as illegal by the Supreme Court.
Poe also said the Senate also lopped off P49 billion from the proposed 2021 budget of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) of P143 billion based on the National Expenditure Program (NEP).
The reason, according to Poe, is that DOTr has had a track record of having difficulty utilizing or absorbing their budget and actually spending it.
‘’We trimmed it down to about P94 billion. That’s how much we took out. And the reason is most of those projects that they lodged in the DOTr was for rail. And seeing the face of what they needed for that, and the demand on other things, like COVID response, we thought that the DOTr won’t be able to spend it anyway next year. All of that, so we moved it,’’ she explained.