Duterte mulls sale of gov’t assets as COVID response expenses reach almost a trillion

Published May 18, 2021, 11:58 AM

by Raymund Antonio

President Duterte floated again on Tuesday, May 18, the possibility of selling government‘s properties to augment the available funds to respond to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his public address on May 18, 2021 (RTVM Screenshot)

But this time, the Chief Executive hinted it could happen for real.

In the second part of his prerecorded public address, Duterte lamented the government has dwindling funds for measures against the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.

“Ang hindrance na lang natin (Our only hindrance) is really how much we can spare but wala itong limit kapag tao na (it has no limits if it involves people),” he said.

The President noted the expenses on COVID-19 response have reached “almost a trillion” and “there’s no end in sight” with the mutation of new more transmissible and deadly virus variants.

So far, the government has a total of P8.99 billion in funds under the Bayanihan I and II, which allocated a budget for the country’s COVID-19 response.

The Department of Health (DOH) said in April that it already used P4.36 billion under Bayanihan I, which has an allocation of P4.49 billion, to procure medical equipment such as mechanical ventilators, biological safety cabinets, laminar flow hoods, and biomedical microcentrifuges, among other medical equipment.

From the Bayanihan II’s P4.5 billion, the government used P3.88 billion for the construction of temporary medical isolation and quarantine facilities, field hospitals, dormitories for frontliners and expansion of government capacity.

“I said, baka magkatotoo sabi mo ipagbili ko talaga ‘yong mga propriedad ng gobyerno kasi pawala nang pawala na ‘yong pera (it could happen what I said I would really sell the properties of government because of the dwindling funds),” Duterte said.

“There’s no, I said, an end in sight na matapos ito (that it will end) or the new variants will take over,” the President added.

This was the second time the Chief Executive trained his sight on the sale of government’s assets if funds to combat the coronavirus disease are not enough.

On April 9 last year, Duterte said he would sell the properties of government as a last resort to generate funds and pay off loans acquired in the COVID-19 response.