Fri. Aug 6th, 2021

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has tapped his economic team to find ways to augment the current PHP275-billion budget for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) response, a Palace official said on Tuesday.

Duterte earlier said the national government does not have sufficient funds to address Covid-19 pandemic in the country.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the current situation in the country is “very fluid,” considering that the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon has been extended until April 30.

“Una, sinabi natin hanggang April (12) lang. Ngayon ine-extend natin to April 30 (We initially announced that the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine is just until April 12. Now, we extended it to April 30),” he said in a virtual press conference aired on state-run PTV-4.

“So bibigyan din po natin ng kaunting leeway din ang executive at si Pangulo, depending on ano ang mga pangangailangan (So we have to give the executive and the President the leeway, depending on what they need),” Nograles added.

In a televised public address late Monday night, Duterte bared that the government needs more funds for relief efforts, as the country continues to deal with Covid-19 pandemic.

Duterte said he had directed Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III to look for additional funds in addition to the PHP275-billion package.

Nograles said the government needs more funds to effectively fight Covid-19.

“So ’yung economic team ay inatasan ni Presidente na mag-hanap ng ways and means talaga na maka-build up ng funds para ma-sustain ang ating mga kinakailangang gawin ngayong enhanced community quarantine (The President ordered his economic team to look for ways and means to build up funds and sustain the needs during the implementation of enhanced community quarantine),” he said.

Duterte, in his address to the nation, said he had also directed officials to “explore options” to realign the budget for Covid-19 response by reducing or removing the allocations for several projects.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, in a separate virtual presser, said the realignment of funds would be the job of Dominguez, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, and Transportation Secretary Tugade.

“They will know what to align and where to put those funds,” he said.

Cash aid for middle class

The community quarantine was supposed to lapse on April 12.

Duterte, however, extended the community quarantine until April 30, based on the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Following the extension of community quarantine, the economic team is now studying Duterte’s plan to grant cash aid to middle-income families, Nograles said.

Nograles said another program might be implemented for families who are in the middle class since they are not qualified to avail of the PHP200-billion social amelioration program for 18 million poor households.

“There has to be another program with another fund source and another set of guidelines,” he said. “There are other ways we can help the middle class, not in the social amelioration.”

Nograles, however, noted that the low-income households remain the priority of the government.

He said there might also be a new package that will be offered to poor families affected by Covid-19 crisis.

“Ang uunahin muna nati, ‘yung mga nangangailangan (We will prioritize those who are in need), the poorest of the poor,” Nograles said. “May second pa na coming social amelioration (There will be a second coming social amelioration package), if need be.” (PNA)

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