MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has revealed that he might ask Congress to approve a supplemental budget to augment the national government’s resources for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) response.
Duterte, in a taped public address aired on Friday, said the funds earmarked to combat Covid-19 is already depleting.
“Ako ho, dependent ako sa Congress (I am dependent on Congress),” he said in a speech aired on state-run PTV-4. “They hold the purse. Ibig sabihin hindi ako makagastos ng pera hanggang hindi sabihin ng House, then approval by the Senate (Meaning, I can’t spend the money unless there is approval from the House of Representatives and the Senate).”
Congress, through Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, has granted Duterte special powers to tap some PHP275 billion in unused government funds to stop the further transmission of Covid-19 in the country.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the national government has already spent PHP352.7 billion to address Covid-19.
Dominguez added that the government has sufficient budget for Covid-19 response but admitted that it lacks the authority to spend bulk of money to fight the new coronavirus.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, in a virtual presser on Friday, was confident that lawmakers would grant the possible request for a supplemental budget.
“Kampante naman po kami dahil sa napatunayan na kooperasyon ng ating Kongreso na kung ano ang kinakailangan natin para labanan ang Covid-19, ibibigay naman po ng Kongreso (We are confident that because of their cooperation, Congress will give the money needed to fight Covid-19),” he said.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are expected to resume sessions on May 4.
In an interview over dzMM, Roque said Congress’ approval is necessary to allow the government to tap more funds in a bid to stop the contagion.
“May pondo po tayo. Ang problema, kinakailangan siguro talagang mag-enact ng supplemental budget ang Kongreso kasi hindi naman magagastos ‘yung iba pang mga na walang mandato ng ating mga mambabatas (We have funds. The problem is we need the Congress’ approval for a supplemental budget because we can’t use it without the lawmakers’ approval),” he said.
As of April 24, the Philippines has 7,192 Covid-19 infections, with 762 recoveries and 477 deaths. (PNA)