MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte never claimed that public funds are running out amid the government’s fight against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), Malacañang said on Saturday.
Duterte’s recent statement that the PHP275-billion budget earmarked for Covid-19 response will not last long merely meant that funds are “not infinite,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
“PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) didn’t say we have exhausted our funds, he said the funds are not infinite,” Panelo said in a text message.
Panelo made the remarks after Senator Leila de Lima dared Duterte to first prove that the remaining funds in the 2019 and 2020 budgets have already been totally used before considering the sale of government properties to augment the funds for the country’s Covid-19 response.
On Thursday, de Lima said she could not understand why Duterte is already eyeing selling public assets when he can still use all available funds for the government’s Covid-19 response programs.
Panelo said de Lima was obviously “blabbering from ignorance.”
”She is not listening to the message of the President. She should read the transcript of his televised message,” he said.
Panelo also advised de Lima to shut her mouth, if she would only criticize Duterte’s way of addressing Covid-19 pandemic.
“If she cannot help in the government’s efforts to fight Covid-19 she should at least lockdown her mouth,” he said.
Under Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, Duterte can reallocate, realign and reprogram the 2020 budget toward government programs against Covid-19.
In a televised speech aired on state-run PTV-4 on late Wednesday night, Duterte raised the possibility of selling government properties, in case the government lacks funds to combat Covid-19.
Duterte said his last option was to sell public properties, including state-owned institutions Cultural Center of the Philippines and Philippine International Convention Center, both located in Pasay City.
The government has PHP275-billion that would be spent to curb the spread of Covid-19 and help poor families affected by the health crisis.
As of Friday, the Philippines recorded 4,195 Covid-19 cases.
On Thursday, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III floated the possibility of borrowing USD5.6 billion from the Asian Development Bank to help the Philippines respond to the Covid-19 outbreak.
The World Bank on Friday announced that it approved USD500 million loan to support the Philippines’ efforts in the fight against Covid-19. (PNA)