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Bayanihan 2 fund release okayed

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Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado on Thursday said that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has authorized the release of half of the P140 billion funding for the Bayanihan to Recover as One Law following allegations of low spending on the Bayanihan 2 funds.

“Out of 140 billion, aside from the P4 billion and P15 billion, the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) fund is already processed and is now with the Office of the President. That’s about P46.2 billion. There is another P24.6 billion on process,” Avisado said.

“Under the law, it is only the President who can approve all of these, before we issue the SARO (Special Allotment Release Order).”

Avisado maintained that process is observed in the release of Bayanihan funds as he assured that the government is committed to spend the P140 billion Bayanihan funds.

Senators have urged the DBM to immediately issue the SARO to different implementing agencies.

In the consolidated comments of the lawmakers to the first monthly report of President Rodrigo Duterte on the implementation of Bayanihan 2, the senators noted the non-release of assistance to various sectors including the tourism and agriculture sectors.

“Considering the above, we urgently call on the DBM to immediately issue the necessary Special Allotment Release Orders to all implementing agencies, even pending the issuance of their respective guidelines,” the lawmakers said in their reply to Duterte’s report which was sent to Malacañang on Thursday morning.

“Likewise, we call on all the implementing agencies to fast track their submission of the required budget execution documents to further facilitate the release of said funds,” they added.

Avisado assured that the DBM is not delaying the funds of the government.

Properly funded
“We are not delaying the release of government funds. Our job is to see to it that all agencies are properly funded,” he said.

The senators took note of the DBM’s statement posted last 20 October which reported that of the P140 billion regular appropriations provided by the Bayanihan 2 Law, only P4.413 billion pesos or 3.2 percent of the total funding were released.

The said amount was transferred to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (P2.52 billion); Office of Civil Defense (P855.19 million); Bureau of Treasury (P215.48 million); and the Department of Foreign Affairs (P820 million).

Meanwhile, the following releases of allocations are up for the approval of the Office of the President: Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) (P8 billion); Department of Social Welfare and Development (P6 billion); Department of Agriculture (P11.63 billion); and the Department of Health (P20.58 billion).

The members of the Senate also included in their report the disclosures of Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat and Secretary William Dar that the P10 billion and P24 billion for the tourism and agriculture sectors, respectively, were not released yet.

The P10 billion for the Tourism industry includes P6 billion assistance to the micro, small and medium enterprises through the Department of Trade and Industry’s SB Corporation; P3 billion for the cash-for-work program through the DoLE and P1 billion for tourism infrastructure through the DPWH.

The P24 billion for the agriculture sector, meanwhile, is for the “Plant, Plant, Plant” program which includes direct cash subsidies, zero-interest loans, and other forms of assistance to agri-fishery enterprises and farmers and fisherfolk registered under the Registry System for Basic Sectors of Agriculture.

The Bayanihan 2 law provides P140 billion assistance for sectors severely-affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This also gives standby authority for the government to use another P25.5 billion for the COVID-19 tests, vaccine procurement and capital infusion to government financial institutions.

Budget signing
Meanwhile, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Thursday said Malacañang is still hopeful that President Duterte will be able to sign the P4.5 trillion 2021 proposed national budget first week or second week of December 2020.

The Senate is now awaiting the transmittal of the proposed General Appropriations Bill after the House of Representatives approved the proposed budget on third and final reading.

The delay in the approval of the budget in the House of Representatives forced Duterte to call for a special session leading to the ouster of then Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and the election of new House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.

The Chamber finally approved the budget on third and final reading before the special session ended last 16 October.

with HANANEEL BORDEY

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