More than P189 billion in unreleased funds from the continuing 2019 and current 2020 national budgets could be used to help address the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation in the country, President Rodrigo Duterte said in a report to Congress.
According to the report, the second one as mandated by the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had identified P189.823 billion-worth of unreleased appropriations from the 2019 and 2020 national budgets that could be redirected to fund COVID-19-related measures.
The bulk of these unreleased appropriations, around P160 billion, came from capital outlays while the rest were taken from the allocations for maintenance and other operating expenses at around P28 billion, personnel services at around P967 million, and financial expenses at P505,000.
The unreleased appropriations would, instead, be used to fund additional requirements of existing programs, activities, or projects (P/A/Ps) of concerned government agencies or government-owned or -controlled corporations (GOCCs), as well as requirements for new P/A/Ps supporting the response measures against COVID-19.
At the same time, it would also be used to fund "any deficiencies that may be incurred under the special purpose funds" like the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund and Contingent Fund.
The President also reported that as of April 1, a total of P100 billion had been released to the Department of Social Welfare and Development for its programs to assist those who were affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
Other departments were also helping the DBM in determining P/A/Ps that could be discontinued to generate savings that could help in the COVID-19 response.
Section 4(v) of the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act gave the President the authority to "direct the discontinuance of appropriated P/A/Ps of any agency in the executive department including GOCCs in the 2019 and 2020 General Appropriations Act, whether releases or unreleased" so that their unobligated allotments and generated savings may be used to augment the funding for COVID-19 response measures.
Meanwhile, the President reported that as of April 3, additional allotments and cash allocations had been released by the DBM to various government agencies to cover their COVID-19 response activities. These funds, he said, could be attributed to the agencies' existing P/A/Ps under the 2020 General Appropriations Act.
At the same time, he said the Land Bank of the Philippines had also remitted to the Bureau of Treasury around P12.13 billion-worth of cash balances from different government entities, as well as the unutilized balance of Letters of Credit procured by the Department of Health and the Armed Forces of the Philippines amounting to P4.4 billion, and unutilized unconditional cash transfer funds amounting P5.5 billion to be used to support COVID-19 measures.
Earlier, lawmakers said that there were around P275 billion off-budget funds that could be used to help address the COVID-19 crisis on top of the funds from the 2020 General Appropriations Act that could also be tapped.
Duterte, however, said this amount was not enough, and he asked Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez to find more funds for the government's COVID-19 response.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles on Tuesday said Duterte had accepted the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to extend the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine until April 30.
The ECQ, which was originally scheduled to end on April 13, was implemented to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in many areas of the country.
As of Monday, a total of 3,660 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the Philippines, with 163 deaths and 73 recoveries. — DVM, GMA News