Gov't agencies ordered to identify savings to boost COVID-19 response programs

Published May 12, 2021, 6:14 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The government is planning to tap savings of agencies to augment programs related to addressing the coronavirus outbreak, including relief aid to the affected poor families.

A resident of Makati City receives a first shot of Pfizer coronavirus vaccine from a health worker at the Makati Medical Center on May 12, 2021 (Ali Vicoy/Manila Bulletin)

President Duterte has ordered all government agencies of the Executive branch to identify savings from their respective 2020 budget “for consideration in the augmentation of deficiencies” in appropriation items in view of the pandemic.

Administrative Order No. 41 on the identification of government savings was signed by the President on May 12. It takes effect immediately.

“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing cases of COVID-19 infection call for intensified government-wide response and recovery measures including various forms of socioeconomic relief and assistance to those affected by the imposition of stricter levels of community quarantine,” the order read.

Under AO 41, departments, agencies, bureaus and offices of the national government have been directed to identify the savings and submit a report to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) within 15 days.

Republic Act No. 11520, signed by the President last January, extended the availability of the P4.1 trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2020 until December 2021.

Under the national budget, savings are defined as portions or balances of any released appropriations that have not been obligated as a result of the completion, final discontinuance or abandonment of programs, activities or projects. Savings may also be generated from the implementation of measures resulting in improved systems and efficiencies and enabled an agency to meet and delivery the targets, programs and services at a lesser cost.

In AO 41, the DBM must determine and recommend to the President the following:

– The amounts that can be declared as savings under 2020 national budget as well as the actual deficiencies in any budget item that needed to be augmented.

– Actual deficiencies in any existing item of appropriation under the same GAA that need to be augmented, including, if necessary, items of appropriation for the provision of emergency subsidies to low-income households and disadvantaged or displaced workers affected by the pandemic.

The President also directed the DBM to issue supplemental guidelines on the implementation of AO 41.

The latest order cited Proclamation No. 1021 that placed the country under a state of calamity until Sept. 21, 2021 in the face of the coronavirus threat. Government agencies have also been directed to provide assistance and mobilize resources to implement disaster response aid and measures “in a timely manner to curtail and eliminate the threat of COVID-19.”

As of May 12, the country has recorded 4,842 new cases that brought the total to 1,118,359. The country’s death toll has reached 18,714.

To curb the rise in cases of infections, the government tightened the movement curbs in Metro Manila and nearby provinces until May 14. The Palace earlier hinted that a shift to the more relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ) from the current modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) was possible as cases gradually slow down while health care capacity has improved.

As vaccine supplies arrive in the country, the government has started its vaccination drive, prioritizing health workers, seniors and those with comorbidities. The country’s essential workers are next in the vaccination line.

The inoculation of the general public against the coronavirus will likely begin by June or July, according to vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr.