MANILA – Malacañang on Monday said the government has around PHP77 billion worth of unused funds from the 2019 national budget that could be used to augment coronavirus disease (Covid-19) response efforts.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson suggested to use appropriations from last year’s budget and pork insertions to provide for the needs of Filipinos during the enhanced community quarantine until May 15.
Lacson claimed the government still had PHP900 billion in unused funds, but Roque clarified that only PHP77 billion was left according to Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado.
“Lilinawin ko lang po at ito naman po ay matapos akong magkonsulta kay Secretary Avisado: Ang total po na unreleased budget from the 2019 budget is only po around, kung hindi po ako nagkakamali, around PHP77 billion (I want to clarify, that after consulting Secretary Avisado: The total unreleased budget from the 2019 budget is only around, if I’m not mistaken PHP77 billion),” Roque said in a virtual presser.
Roque also said the government has so far used PHP352.7 billion out of the PHP397 billion available funds have been spent already for Covid-19 response under the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act of 2020 or Republic Act 11469.
Under the Bayanihan law, President Rodrigo Duterte is given special powers to address the Covid-19 health crisis including among others, authority to realign funds in the 2020 budget.
Roque said Avisado has also given government agencies until the end of the month to identify their “uncommitted funds” that can be used for Covid-19 programs and projects.
“Siya po ay nagpadala ng memorandum sa lahat ng ahensya at tinatanong po niya kung ano pa iyong mga uncommitted funds, iyong pupuwede pa talagang magamit para sa ibang purpose (He sent a memorandum to all agencies asking them to identify uncommitted funds, which we can use for other purposes),” he said.
Roque, meanwhile, said he would leave it to agencies to decide on Lacson’s suggestion to realign funds from the budgets of the Departments of Transportation (DOTr) and Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
“Pagdating po sa mga proyekto ng mga senador at kongresista ay pinauubaya na po namin iyan kay Secretary Villar po karamihan naman ng mga proyektong iyan ay nasa DPWH (When it comes to projects of senators and congressmen, we will leave it to Public Works Secretary Villar because most of the projects are under the DPWH),” he said.
The government, Roque said, has enough money to sustain people’s needs until the ECQ is lifted.
However, he said the executive department needs authority from Congress to seek for additional funds.
On Friday (April 24), Duterte bared that he might ask Congress to approve a supplemental budget to boost government’s resources for Covid-19 response.
Lacson, however, cautioned against passing a supplemental budget, saying that it should only cover unused funds. (ia/PNA)