President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said the government needed more funds for relief efforts as the country deals with the spread of novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19).
In a televised address, Duterte said he had instructed Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez to find government funds in addition to the P275-billion package approved by Congress last month with the Bayanihan Heal As One Act.
"Hindi talaga tatagal 'yan," said Duterte about the programmed funds. "'Pag ginastos ko 'yan, mauubos talaga 'yan. Eh wala naman kita, puro bigay lang."
Duterte allayed any fears that he'd be tempted to steal the money, saying he's old and wouldn't know what to do with the money for himself.
“I am calling on the Secretary of Finance to generate, magnakaw ka, maghiram ka, wala akong pakialam. I-produce mo ‘yung pera kasi ‘pag naubos na ito, ‘di ko malaman,” the president said.
The chief executive said he had ordered officials to "explore options" to realign the budget toward relief efforts by reducing or removing the allocations for certain projects.
“Unahin natin ang tao, ang tiyan, kasi kapag wala nang kinakain, a human being can be violent especially [‘pag] makita niya ang mga anak niyang walang makain.”
Duterte also called on employers and Filipinos “who have more in life” to help the government in extending financial assistance to the poor.
“As long as there is no vaccine or any medicine to put an end to it, we will suffer. Hindi ko alam kung kailan ako makahatid ng pagkain sa lahat. Hindi ko alam kung saan ako magkuha ng pera. Hindi ko alam kung ano ang ipagbili ko,” he said.
Help for middle income
The president also said he agrees with Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla’s appeal for middle income families to be included in the government’s social amelioration program.
"They are often overlooked. They pay the most taxes. They are mostly law abiding citizens," Remulla said in an open letter to Duterte.
“Ako, I agree,” Duterte responded. Alam ko kung maaari lang, isali ko sila.”
He added that the government will “double time” on helping the middle class amid the COVID-19 threat.
For need of money, Duterte said he could even agree to reclamation projects, which he earlier opposed.
"When the resources have been exhausted and the pandemic will claim millions of lives, I hope and I pray it would not, pero kung ganun wala na akong magawa," he said.
"Malapit na, ilang buwan lang ang reserba natin. Ako, handa akong ipagbili ang buong Dewey Boulevard sa gustong mag-reclaim, bigyan nyo ako ng bigas, kasi hindi ako pumayag mag-reclaim," he said.
Duterte said he turned down proposals to reclaim portions of Manila Bay because it could lead to the collapse of the city of Manila.
Filipinos in the informal sector are the hardest hit by the COVID-19 menace, with many low-income families dependent on the financial aid promised by the government to get by while the entire Luzon is on lockdown.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development has begun rolling out P5,000 to P8,000 to poor families, but several local governments reported that only less than half of the beneficiaries from their cities were approved to receive aid.
“Be patient. Intindihin ninyo kami sa gobyerno. We would appreciate it,” Duterte appealed to Filipinos.—JST/LDF GMA News