Dominguez: No asset sale to fund COVID-19 response
MANILA, Philippines – President Duterte’s chief economic manager is firm: No government asset will be sold to finance the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic response.
Asked over the weekend if he had new discussions with the President after presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the government was ready to dispose of assets to purchase COVID-19 vaccines, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III replied: “No.”
Roque, in a televised briefing last week said that “basta po mayroon nang gamot diyan sa COVID-19, basta may bakuna, ibebenta natin lahat ng ari-arian ng ating gobyerno para makabili po tayo para sa ating mga kababayan.”
“Iyan po ang paninindigan ni Presidente—buhay muna bago ari-arian,” Roque had said.
In some of his previous speeches, Duterte had mentioned willingness to sell the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), among other prime properties assets along Roxas Boulevard, as “the last resort” to augment funds in fighting COVID-19 in case they dry up.
But Dominguez already several times reiterated that the government had not yet reached the point where they considered to sell big-ticket assets.
Dominguez had said he doubted that any “fire sale” of public assets would ever happen.
Investopedia defined fire sale as “selling goods or assets at heavily discounted prices.”
Dominguez had explained that while the government has money, it was mandated to spend only the amount set aside under the yearly national budget.
This was why the expired Bayanihan to Heal as One Law empowered the President to realign funds in the P4.1-trillion 2020 budget as well as last year’s continuing appropriations for COVID-19 response.
As such, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado last May ordered government agencies to align programs and projects under the proposed P4.3-trillion cash budget for 2021 to the “new normal” amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Specifically, Avisado said that next year’s priority programs included health systems improvement in order to “strengthen the country’s capacity to address the COVID-19 pandemic, including the purchase of vaccine.”
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