Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Tuesday, June 15, appealed to the executive department to decide on whether or not to consider the proposed Bayanihan 3 law as an urgent piece of legislation so the Senate can take prompt action.
“The Secretary [of Health] is saying he needs 66 billion [pesos] between July and December to address the vaccine rollout. The National Treasurer has not issued any certification for the availability of funds for Bayanihan 3. I am not sure what the direction is. There is no certified measure to address this,” Pangilinan said during the Senate Committee of the Whole’s inquiry on the national vaccination program.
“What is the policy of the IATF (Interagency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) with regards to Bayanihan 3? Are we to wait for the budgets?” he asked.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the government would need an additional fund of some ₱66 billion from July to December this year to fund testing, maintenance, and other operating expenses, as well as to hire more personnel for the vaccine rollout.
Duque, who chairs the IATF, said the inter-agency body supports the passage of the Bayanihan 3, but finance managers have yet to make a definite position on the bill.
“We can rush it. We can work on it, and I think we should in the Senate. But precisely, what is the policy direction? The IATF says they need it, the national treasurer says there is no certification. So where are we?” Pangilinan asked.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said that while it supports and is ready to implement Bayanihan 3, a certification from the Bureau of Treasury for the availability of funds is still needed.
It said that following an executive order by the President, agencies are now identifying possible savings that may be used to augment the funding requirement to fight the pandemic.
The Department of Finance, for its part, committed to take up the matter in the next meeting of the Development Budget Coordinating Committee (DBCC).
The Bayanihan to Recover as One or Bayanihan 2 law will expire on June 30.
Pangilinan raised concerns over the ₱173 billion unreleased and unspent appropriations under Bayanihan 2.
Duque said he has also recommended its extension.
“That too is an issue that needs clarification…Malaking halaga ang ₱173 billion at kailangan ngayon ng ating mga kababayan (It’s a huge amount that is badly needed by our countrymen…Where is the sense of urgency?” Pangilinan lamented.
The House of Representatives approved on third and final reading its proposed “Bayanihan to Arise as One Act” last June 1. The measure seeks to appropriate ₱401 billion as an additional COVID-19 stimulus and response fund.