The Philippine government would not reach the point of forgoing its assets as it grapples with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Thursday.
"I do not think it will get to that point considering the serious ways we are undertaking to address the disease," Sotto said in a message to GMA News Online.
President Rodrigo Duterte, during a speech aired past midnight on Thursday, said he would consider selling the assets of the Philippine government if the funds for COVID-19 response run out.
"Pag maubos talaga ang pera, ipabili ko lahat ng propiyedad ng gobyerno. Iyang Cultural Center, PICC, yung lupa diyan. Totoo," Duterte said.
"Kapag wala na akong makuha and we are about to sink, and really sink, I will sell all the assets of government tapos itulong ko sa tao," he added.
But Sotto said Duterte's mention of the said option could simply be taken as a word of assurance for the Filipino people.
"I believe the President is merely giving us the assurance that he will do whatever it takes to fund the health and recovery of the entire country," he said.
Meanwhile, detained Senator Leila De Lima said the conditions are still premature for Duterte to bring up the said possibility.
"Wala pa tayo sa puntong ‘yon. Dapat makumbinsi tayo na wala na talagang pera ang gobyerno at mga special purpose funds to begin contemplating the selling of our assets," she said. "Saka nasaan na nga ba ang napakalaking intel funds, baka naman puwedeng magamit din ito?"
She added that unless the government changes gear in its leadership style amid the health emergency, selling assets won't be that beneficial.
"Kahit ibenta pa nila lahat ng assets ng gobyerno, kung ganito pa rin kawalang liderato ang gobyerno, wala pa ring mangyayari down the line," De Lima said.
Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act gives authority to the President to realign available government budget to augment the ongoing COVID-19 response.
According to Duterte's second report to Congress on Monday, more than P189 billion in unreleased funds from the continuing 2019 and current 2020 national budgets could be used for efforts amid the health crisis.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III also said the government is eyeing a $5.6 loan from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to support the country's economy amid its fight against COVID-19. — RSJ, GMA News