Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto lamented on Tuesday, July 27, the government’s seeming “lack of urgency” in spending government funds despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
About P200 billion of funds under the P4.506-trillion 2021 General Appropriations Act (GAA) has yet to be spent by the government halfway through the year, Recto said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel.
“There was big portion nga pala (anyway) of the budget that has not been released yet, for infrastructure. And that’s where the jobs should be created,” the Senate leader said as he stressed the importance of addressing the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts, following President Duterte’s sixth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 26.
“There is roughly about P200 billion yet not been released,” he disclosed.
Recto also agreed with Senator Panfilo Lacson’s about the underspending of the appropriations under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, or Bayanihan 2, which expired last June 30.
“While it may true that P6 billion has not been released by the DBM, most of those released has not been obligated, has not been disbursed. So hindi pa napapakinabangan (people have yet to benefit), so to speak,” he said.
“That’s just Bayanihan, what about the GAA for 2021? Parang walang (Like there is no) sense of urgency,” he lamented.
Asked if this remark applies to the government’s COVID-19 response, he replied: “That is correct, ’cause they have not even spent the 2021 budget.”
He also noted the pending reimbursements of the government to hospitals, as well as the allowances and other benefits still not received by health workers.
“Masyadong mabagal (It’s too slow),” Recto said.
President Duterte has earlier taken exception to criticisms coming from lawmakers that his administration is underspending Bayanihan appropriations. Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III had said that only P6 billion, or one percent, of the coronavirus funds remained unreleased.
Lacson, however, pointed out that government spending is determined not only by the releases, but also the obligation and disbursement of funds.
Obligation refers to the commitment of a government agency which allows the payment of a sum of money. Disbursement, meanwhile, refers to the actual settlement or payment of an obligation.
Citing his research, Lacson claimed that some P63 billion of the P205.117-billion Bayanihan 2 allotment has not been obligated or disbursed.
“This can be considered huge underspending,” Lacson said, negating the executive department.