Big chunk of P 653B released for COVID-19 response still unused | Inquirer Business
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Big chunk of P 653B released for COVID-19 response still unused

By: - Reporter / @bendeveraINQ
/ 04:06 AM May 12, 2021

The national government has released through the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) a total of P653.4 billion from March last year up to mid-April this year to various government agencies for their COVID-19 response. However, about one-third of the fund released or P217.3 billion remained unspent to date.

Some local governments, meanwhile, resorted to borrowings to finance their COVID-19 response, such as the municipality of Cantilan in Surigao del Sur provinces, which sought a P300-million loan last month to procure medical equipment amid the prolonged pandemic, the latest list of certificates of net debt service ceiling and borrowing capacity issued by the Department of Finance’s Bureau of Local Government Finance showed.

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In March, the town of Dinalupihan, Bataan, borrowed P16.3 million from state-run Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) to build a treatment and monitoring facility, while Mandaluyong City sought a bigger P4.4-billion loan also from Landbank to beef-up its medical response.

Local governments borrowings for pandemic response nonetheless remained small compared to the total of P25.2 billion in loans sought by local governments nationwide from March to April.

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The bulk of COVID-19 response financing still came from the national government through the allocations under the Bayanihan 1 and 2 laws as well as other releases when these stimulus packages expired.

In a statement on Tuesday, the DBM said that of the P387.2 billion released under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act or Bayanihan 1, P358.2 billion or 92.5 percent had been obligated or awarded with contracts to push through with the programs, activities and projects. Disbursements or actual spending of Bayanihan 1 funds stood at P339.7 billion or 94.8 percent of the obligated amount.

As for the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2, releases as of the middle of last month reached P259.8 billion, of which P132.7 billion (51.1 percent) were obligated, and then only P93.3-billion worth (70.3 percent of obligations) had been disbursed, the DBM said.

Between the time that the Bayanihan 1 Law expired in June last year and Bayanihan 2 took effect in September, the DBM also released P6.5 billion to agencies, of which P4.2 billion have been obligated (64.6-percent obligation rate), and P3.2 billion (77.3 percent) disbursed so far.

The P217.3 billion in unspent funds can still be used up to the end of 2021 in the case of continuing appropriations under the 2020 national budget, while Bayanihan 2 funds will expire in mid-2021, after President Duterte extended the validity of these spending items.

“Upon the expiration of the Bayanihan laws, all unreleased appropriations shall lapse while undisbursed funds shall revert to the unappropriated surplus of the general fund,” the DBM said.

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