MANILA – The 2020 national budget should be “adjusted” to better address the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak in the country, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said on Monday.
Nograles justified President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to seek for additional powers to carry out the urgent measures such as realigning any appropriation in the 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA).
Admitting that the government did not anticipate a pandemic while drafting the 2020 budget a year before, he said the current budget is no longer “appropriate” to respond to government’s efforts to fight the coronavirus.
“Kaya nga po kailangan natin ng adjustments para matugunan natin ang pangangailangan ng ating kababayan (That is why we need adjustments to address the needs of our citizens),” he said in a Laging Handa public briefing.
He said Duterte is hoping for “flexibility” to make budget realignments that concentrate on Covid-19 response, but it will be up to Congress whether to grant him additional powers or not.
Nograles also said the items in the 2020 national budget could also be used to augment the depleted funds of local governments.
On March 21, Duterte issued Proclamation No. 933 asking Congress to pass a law authorizing him to exercise powers necessary to carry out urgent measures to meet the current national emergency related to Covid-19.
“The declared national policy is to stop the spread of the coronavirus that threatens the public safety. To implement the same, there are urgent measures that the President may need to effectively thwart the proliferation of Covid-19,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
Under the proposed measure, Duterte may also cancel programs, projects, or activities for purposes of generating savings and reprogram, reallocate, or realign savings within the executive department to address the Covid-19 pandemic.
It also gives him power to immediately procure goods which may include personal protective equipment (PPE); lab and medical equipment; testing kits; lease of property or venue for use to house health workers or serve as quarantine centers, medical relief and aid distribution locations, or temporary medical facilities.
The country is currently under a state of public health emergency and a state of calamity with nearly 462 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 33 deaths.
President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Luzon under an enhanced community quarantine which strictly requires residents to stay indoors and limit movement to accessing basic necessities. (PNA)