President Rodrigo Duterte has devolved the special authorities granted to him by Congress through the Bayanihan To Heal As One Act to subordinates and local officials except for two which were reserved for him alone since these have the “gravest potential impact on the private sector “if done without the utmost care.”
In the report to the Congressional Oversight Committee under a requirement of the Bayanihan Act, Mr. Duterte said “all but two of the powers granted to the President under the said Act have been delegated to specific officials, clearly laying down their responsibilities.”
The President has given public officials their marching orders, “emphasizing the need for expediency and giving of sufficient authority so that they do not have to go back to the Office of the President and ask for clearance for each and every action they will take.”
The powers that Mr. Duterte retained were the authority to direct “the operation of specified private establishments or to take over their operations in very specific conditions.”
The other is the power to require businesses to prioritize contracts for materials and services necessary to address the crisis.
In the mandatory report which was received by Senate President Sotto III, the President emphasized the importance of time in the battle against the invisible malady.
‘Build’ program intact
According to the report, there are no flagship projects that will be affected or discontinued due to the reallocation of resources to build up the P209.9 billion response budget.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is coordinating with government agencies to use all released allotments from the 2019 national budget to fund their COVID-19 response, according to the report.
It noted, however, the Department of Science and Technology’s P53.230-million budget for the “Support to Harmonized National S&T Agenda” program will be redirected to accommodate the production of 1,300 COVID-19 testing kits that are good for 26,000 tests. The fund will also be used for the delivery, training for the administration of tests and for genome sequencing.
The DBM also recommended the use of around P153 billion drawn from the Departments of Social Welfare and Development, Health (DoH) and the Labor and Employment.
DBM also prepared a list of projects that can be discontinued in case the government needs more financing in the battle against COVID-19.
The report also mentioned that the Chief Executive can use the Special Purposes Funds (SPF), which is estimated at P372.719 billion this year, which has remained untouched except for P500 million utilized to replenish DoH’s Quick Response Fund.
SPF can help
Under the Bayanihan Act, Mr. Duterte has the authority to transfer the funds in SPF for projects related to the campaign against COVID-19.
SPF, unlike the yearly national budget, are lump sum appropriations that the President was mandated to use.
The DBM has estimated P209.907 billion can be repurposed for emergency response.
The earmarked funds include P145.717 billion for Budgetary Support to Government Corporations, P1.047 billion for the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, P28.414 billion shares of LGU from national taxes, P50 million Barangay Officials’ Death Benefits Funds, P27.311 billion Local Government Support Fund, P365 million in LGU share from Fire Code Fees and P7 billion discretionary funds for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
DoTr throws in P10B
The report also mentioned that the Department of Transportation (DoTr) has remitted P10 billion dividends from three attached agencies namely the Philippine Ports Authority, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and the Manila International Airport to the Bureau of Treasury.
Aside from those, all the programs and projects under the 2020 General Appropriations Act remains untapped.
Meanwhile, the Department of Finance is discussing with government-owned and controlled corporations with regards to the P100 billion initial dividend collection until the end of March 2020.
Earlier the President said in an address that about 1 million medical protective equipment are being acquired for the use of frontliners who are helping combat the spread of the deadly COVID-19 in the country.
In a recorded televised speech aired over government station PTV-4 that lasted more than 24 minutes, the President said both the government and the private sector are working together to purchase or produce the necessary medical supplies, devices and personal protective equipment for doctors, nurses health professionals, police, soldiers and other frontliners who are working hand in hand to battle the virus.
“We are marshalling and deploying the resources of government to provide our frontline health workers with everything they require so they can save as many lives as possible,” the President said.
Aside from this, the President said they are also ramping government’s capacity to test more broadly to take a fuller and more accurate picture of the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
“We will also build, operate and accredit more medical facilities and laboratories in the coming weeks,” he said.
The President warned the people tasked of distributing the money, food and other relief goods to kindly do it “to a tee.”
He said those who will be found violating the law will be punished.
“If you make a mistake here, I will not let it pass. I will see to it even tomorrow, if I discover some embezzlements, some hoarding there, you better think hard,” the President said.