DBM trims departments’ budget for COVID fund
A total of P14.3 billion was slashed in June from the budget of several departments, including the offices of President Rodrigo Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo, as the government scrambled to secure more funds for its new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response before the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act expired.
Latest data from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) showed that from April to June, the Office of the President’s 2020 budget of P8.2 billion was reduced by P28.1 million, while that of the Vice President was cut by P12.3 million, reducing it to P687.6 million.
The Bayanihan law, whose implementation lapsed last month, allowed Mr. Duterte to realign items from the P4.1-trillion 2020 national budget as well as continuing appropriations in the P3.7-trillion 2019 budget to financially support the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado earlier explained that the agency budget cuts covered programs, activities and projects whose implementation can be delayed to next year.
Suffering the biggest budget cuts were the Department of Public Works and Highways (reduced by P123.1 billion); Department of Education (P24.2 billion); Commission on Higher Education (P13.9 billion); Department of Agriculture (P13.9 billion); and Department of Transportation (P8.8 billion).
A total of P8.9 billion was slashed in the budget of state universities and colleges.
In all, the respective budgets of 42 departments and other executive offices were reduced between April and June.
On the other hand, front-line agencies that responded to the health and socioeconomic crises caused by COVID-19 received additional budgets: the Department of Finance (with an additional P35.3 billion); Department of Health (P1.9 billion); Department of Labor and Employment (P5.6 billion); and Department of Social Welfare and Development (P165.2 billion).
These four departments and their attached agencies implemented the social amelioration program for poor households and displaced workers, distributed wage subsidies for small businesses, and crafted the health-care response against the disease.
Assistant Budget Secretary Rolando Toledo earlier said that the release of P3.78 trillion, or 92.3 percent of the 2020 budget, reflected the government’s commitment to spend despite the COVID-19 crisis.
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