Gov’t to realign P150-B to further fund COVID-19 response

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An estimate of PHP150 billion from the budget of the executive branch will be realigned to augment the funds for the government’s coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) response, Malacañang announced on Saturday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque gave this update after reports of President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent order for Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado to source additional funds that can be used to address the Covid-19 pandemic.

Alam na natin kung magkano mare-realign natin doon sa mga current budget ng executive at tinitimbang na lang po ‘yun… Ang sabi sa akin, mahigit kumulang mga PHP150 billion,” the spokesperson said.

[For now, we already know how much from the current budget of the executive can be realigned. It’s still being weighed. I was told it was around PHP150 billion.]

The president earlier ordered Secretary Avisado to realign public funds to enable them to increase the number of Filipino household who will receive aid from the national government amid the health crisis.

Roque said the government is still assessing how it would spend the budget that would be realigned to boost the fight against Covid-19.

Kaya nga po pinag-iingatan kung saan gagastusin ang PHP150 billion kasi beyond PHP150 billion, talagang kinakailangang pumunta for a supplemental budget,” he said.

[We are really being careful as to how we will spend the PHP150 billion because going beyond that would mean asking for a supplemental budget.]

This decision was made as the administration acknowledged that it cannot afford to ask Congress for a supplemental budget, Roque said.

Roque admitted that the government would have a hard time asking for a supplemental budget because of the low tax collection due to the quarantine protocols imposed to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Hindi ka naman pupwedeng magkaroon ng supplemental budget ng wala kang sources of revenue,” he explained.

[You cannot ask for a supplemental budget if you do not have sources of revenue.]

Roque also shared the government’s plans to apply for loans to increase the COVID-19 funds. Despite the country’s low credit rating, the spokesperson said it can still borrow as it is relatively higher than its neighboring nations.

Kaya nga nakakautang tayo at umutang naman tayo habang mababa pa ang interest rate,” explained Roque.

[That’s why we were able to borrow and we are borrowing money while the interest rates are still low.]

So far, the Philippines has borrowed from foreign lenders and secured grants worth nearly USD5 billion, according to the Department of Finance’s (DOF) report.

The DOF has noted that some USD4.05 billion of the USD4.858 billion of foreign loans have already been downloaded to the government for its Covid-19 response.