Filipinos might just hold on to an “empty promise” if another Bayanihan law is passed without enough funding, Senator Grace Poe said on Thursday.
“I would like to know where we will be able to source the funding for that,” Poe said even as she assured her support to initiatives to help people who are reeling from the novel coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).
“Because even in Bayanihan 2, a portion of the appropriation is under unprogrammed funds. How are we going to source it, where are we going to spend it?” she asked.
“We have to know the real score so that we will not make empty promises to the people,” she said in her statement.
Several bills seeking the passage of a “Bayanihan 3” have been filed in Congress to provide an additional stimulus package for the economy that has been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Poe said that before passing a new stimulus law, the government should first update the public how the funds under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, or Bayanihan 2, are being used.
Bayanihan 2 appropriated P165.5 billion in programmed and unprogrammed funds to aid the country’s pandemic response.
President Duterte, last December 29, signed the law allowing the extension of the availability of the appropriations under the law until June 30 this year.
“Let us consider that Bayanihan 2 was extended, therefore, we still need to get a proper accounting of what was spent in Bayanihan 2—if there are any savings or deficit,” the senator said.
The Philippines, she added, “is currently saddled with [a] P10-trillion debt in 2020 and is programmed to borrow P3 trillion more this year.”
Passing new revenue measures might also not be feasible, she said, recalling the backlash from the operations of private motor vehicle inspection centers (PMVICs), which the Senate public services recently heard.
Both the Bayanihan 1 — the expired Bayanihan to Heal as One Act — and the Bayanihan 2 were funded by cutting non-implementable government programs and projects or by taking out loans, she noted.
Poe maintained that the government’s COVID-19 recovery programs “should be centered [on] job-generation.””The best strategy is still to make sure Filipinos have jobs. Cash aid is a one-time benefit, in contrast to employment which can give them a secure income,” she said.