Tue. Dec 1st, 2020
House Committee on Public Accounts chairman Mike Defensor

MANILA – House Committee on Public Accounts chairman Mike Defensor on Thursday urged the Department of Finance (DOF) to explain in detail the PHP1.86-trillion in loans the government obtained from January to July this year.

Defensor said while there is a need to borrow from foreign and domestic lenders to augment funds for the country’s coronavirus disease (Covid-19) response, the DOF should account for the debt for the first seven months of the year in the spirit of transparency.

“For the understanding of the greater public, the DOF, together with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), has to explain to clear up issues,” Defensor said. “For instance, how much of the PHP1.86 trillion went to Covid-19 response measures, how much for infrastructure, how much for debt repayment, and how much for salaries, if any.”

Defensor noted that last week, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado reported that the DBM has released a total of PHP389 billion for Covid-19 response as of August 28.

Of the said amount, PHP211 billion was used for the two waves of financial assistance to at least 18 million low-income families amounting to PHP5,000 to PHP8,000 under Bayanihan 1 or the We Heal as One Law.

Defensor also urged the DBM to specify what government projects, activities, and programs (PAP) have been scrapped to augment the funding for Covid-19 efforts so that the people would not wait for these.

“They can post these on their website, indicating the particular PAP, its funding and location. If residents feel strongly that a discontinued PAP is still needed in their community, they could push for its funding in future budgets by communicating to lawmakers, their local officials, and even directly to the DBM,” he said.

He also asked the DBM to tell Congress and the public how much the government saved from continuing lockdowns since March.

He said work-from-home arrangements for most government workers should have meant savings in the billions in terms of use of electricity, water, telephone, internet, office supplies, vehicles, fuel, and other maintenance and operating expenses (MOOE).

He said the PHP4.1-trillion national budget for this year allocates a total of PHP1.6 trillion for MOOE.

Defensor has earlier proposed the MOOE allocation be cut by at least 20 percent or PHP320 billion, and the money is used to augment Covid-19 response funds. (PNA)

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