Senator Nancy Binay on Sunday vowed to pursue the realignment of the proposed budget for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) which she sees as potential source of funds for the country’s Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), cancer treatment program and the Special Risk Allowance (SRA) for healthcare workers.
Binay said it is crucial that the funds for NTF-ELCAC for 2022—now pegged at P28.1-billion—be rechanneled to these programs which are critical in the government’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At the moment, ang nakikita ko lang ay yung sa NTF-ELCAC. Baka isa yun sa mga pwedeng pagkuhaan ng pondo (I am seeing the NTF-ELCAC funds. I think that can be one of the major sources of funds for these),” Binay said in an interview over Radio DZBB.
“And then titingnan natin dun sa iba’t-ibang agency kung ano ba yung mga programa na hindi talaga nagagamit sa ahensya nila. Kasi alam ninyo naman, every year, meron yung absorbtive capacity din ng mga ahensya (Then we will look into the budget of other agencies, what programs are unutilized by the agency. As you know, every year, each agency is asked about their absorptive capacity),” she pointed out.
Binay earlier questioned the budget cut the RITM received under the proposed P5.024-trillion national budget, noting that the laboratory fund was slashed by P170-million, while the anti-insurgency task force is getting P11.66-billion more than the original P16.4-billion it received for 2021.
“Yes, pangunahin sila, sila talaga yung nangunguna pagdating sa (Yes because they are the primary agency when it comes to) research, not just on COVID, but for other diseases),” she lamented.
“And then, napansin din natin, cancer treatment. Pinasa namin ito sa Kongreso na dapat meron talagang specific line item para dun sa assistance na ibibigay natin dun sa mga cancer patients. So for this year, ang nilaan na pondo ay P620 million. Pero for next year ay nawala rin itong P620-million (Then we also noticed the program for cancer treatment. We passed this in Congress detailing a specific line item for the assistance that would be given to cancer patients. For this year, we allocated P620-million. But for next year, there’s no P620-million appropriation),” she lamented.
Binay also said she wondered why state economic managers did not include the additional budget for the SRA of healthcare workers in the 2022 national budget and are merely waiting for the approval of the Bayanihan 3.
She pointed out even the President is not keen to pass a Bayanihan 3 law.
“Bakit kailangan pang hintayin yung Bayanihan 3 e kung pwede na namang ilagay dun sa national budget for next year? Dahil ito na, kumbaga, mas sigurado na mapapasa ito by year end (Why do we need to wait for Bayanihan 3 when we can put it under the national budget for next year? It is more guaranteed to pass by the end of the year),” Binay said.
“Hindi katulad nung Bayanihan 3, hihimayin pa namin yan sa Senado. Alam naman natin na medyo gahol na rin sa panahon (Unlike Bayanihan 3, which we have to still deliberate on at the Senate. And we know we don’t have enough time),” she pointed out.
That is why, Binay said she favors realigning the funds for NTF-ELCAC to health-related measures and programs.
“(Dahil) mas kalaban natin ang COVID kesa sa mga insurgency. Hindi ko sinasabing hindi problema ang insurgency. Pero sa heirarchy ng mga kalaban natin, number one ang COVID kaya dapat doon tayo nakatuon (COVID is our greatest enemy than insurgency. I’m not saying insurgency isn’t a problem. But in the hierarchy of things, COVID is our number one enemy, so it’s necessary that our focus is on dealing with that problem),” she stressed.