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Where's the P275-B? Duterte says COVID-19 response fund not yet onhand

President Rodrigo Duterte hit back at critics who have been demanding a breakdown of the P275-billion coronavirus response fund, stressing that the amount is yet to be collected by the government.

At a briefing in Malacañang aired late Wednesday night, the president claimed the P275 billion is not cash on hand since it is yet to be collected in the second, third, and fourth quarters of the year.

“Wala pa ‘yang pera na ‘yan dito… ‘Yung budget na pinapatakbo natin was prepared last year but COVID-19 was not included in that budget,” he explained.

#NasaanAng275Billion was among the hashtags that trended on Twitter in March as netizens made resounding calls for a breakdown of the COVID-19 response fund.

Congress had approved a P275-billion package in March under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act to support some 18 million low-income households affected by the enhanced community quarantines that stalled the economy.

“Kung magsabi kayo, ‘Saan na ‘yung pera namin na P300 billion,’ wala pa po ‘yan. Kokolektahin pa po ‘yan,” Duterte said.

“Masunod ba ‘yung koleksyon mo? Hindi. Ang ekonomiya, patay,” he added.

During his tirade, Duterte said he was looking at selling off government assets to raise funds for COVID-19 response.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said that the budget deficit is seen to widen to 5.3 percent, while at least 1.2 million Filipinos are expected to temporarily become unemployed due to the coronavirus menace.

Duterte called on landlords to temporarily stop collecting rent from their tenants, citing reports of people who were kicked out of their homes for being unable to pay their dues amid the crisis.

“Nagmamakaawa ako sa inyo, ‘wag ninyong pilitin ang mga tao… kasi talagang mageengkwentro tayo. Hindi talaga ako papayag. ‘Wag niyo akong pilitin to go against the law,” he warned. --JST, GMA News