President Duterte has an option to ask for a supplemental budget from Congress if the government funds won’t be enough for the cash assistance to people affected by the pandemic lockdown, according to a Palace official.
But for now, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III mentioned that revenues of government corporations could be the potential source to cover the financial aid or “ayuda” for the poor and vulnerable Metro Manila residents during the lockdown period.
The capital region will go into another two-week lockdown starting Friday, August 6 as the government struggles to contain the spread of a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus. A one-time cash subsidy will be distributed to more than 10 million poor and vulnerable people living in Metro Manila.
“Kung walang budget for ayuda, hahanap naman po tayo at ngayon po may sinabi na nga po si Secretary Dominguez ng ating Department of Finance doon sa mga dibidendo ng mga GOCCs (government -owned or -controlled corporations) natin kukuhanin (If there is no budget for aid, we will look for funding source. Now Secretary Dominguez of the Department of Finance said the funds will be sourced from the dividends of the GOCCs),” Roque said during a televised press briefing Thursday, August 5.
“Kung hindi pa iyon po sapat, nandiyan po iyong savings, kung hindi pa sapat, eh ‘di kukuha po tayo ng supplemental budget galing sa Kongreso. Hindi naman po tayo mauubusan ng pondo, iyon lang po ang assurance natin sa taumbayan (If it won’t be enough, we have savings. If it is still insufficient, we will ask for a supplemental budget from Congress. We won’t run out of funds, that’s our assurance to our people),” he added.
The government earlier set aside P13 billion for the distribution of cash aid to 10.7 million poor and vulnerable people in Metro Manila to cope with the two-week lockdown this month. Under the aid program, P1,000 will be given to each beneficiary or a maximum of P4,000 per household.
The ECQ compels affected residents to stay at home except for going to work in permitted establishments and accessing essential goods and services. Some businesses and public transport will have limited capacities while a ban will be implemented on mass gatherings, except those related to government services and humanitarian activities, to curb the spread of the virus.
Roque explained that the government would not want to promise financial aid to the people until it has secured adequate funding sources.
“Iniiwasan din natin na mangako sa taumbayan na wala naman tayong pagkukunan ng pondo. Puwede ka ngang gumawa ng supplemental budget, puwede kang mangako ng ayuda, kung wala ka namang pagkukunan, eh saan mo kukunin (But we’re avoiding making promises to the people without securing the source of funds. You can make a supplemental budget, promise aid, but if you don’t have funding source, where you will get the money?),” he said.
According Roque, the President’s economic team has kept a “conservative” policy on borrowings to avoid any runaway debts especially since it remained unclear when the pandemic will end.
“Hindi naman pupuwede lahat inuutang lang, dahil eventually babayaran po iyan at ang ginagawa nga po ng ating economic team, hinay-hinay ang pangutang (We can’t just borrow funds for everything because eventually these will be paid and our economic team opted to go slow on borrowings),” he said.
“Sino ba naman ang akalain na magkakaroon ng Delta variant na ganito. Kaya tama naman po na maging very conservative tayo pagdating sa pangungutang (Who would have thought there would be a Delta variant. So it is just right that we should be very conservative when it comes to borrowing funds),” he said.
Some lawmakers have suggested realigning the national budget to cover the pandemic response as well as the financial aid for people affected by pandemic lockdowns.
Around P660 billion have so far been spent on the government’s efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak since the pandemic erupted last year. The government has tapped the national budget, Bayanihan funds, and multilateral funding sources for the pandemic response.