DBM: P173.3 billion in COVID-19 funds still unspent | Inquirer Business
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DBM: P173.3 billion in COVID-19 funds still unspent

MANILA, Philippines—At least P173.31 billion, or over a fourth, of COVID-19 funds released so far are still unspent due to some agencies’ sluggish implementation of programs and projects to fight the pandemic.

Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado told the Economic Journalists’ Association of the Philippines’ (EJAP) midyear forum on Tuesday (June 15) that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) already released a total of P660.5 billion to departments and agencies for COVID-19 response since March 2020.

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The COVID-19 releases included:

  • P387.17 billion under the Bayanihan to Heal as One (Bayanihan 1) Act
  • P200.12 billion through the Bayanihan to Recover as One (Bayanihan 2) Act
  • P73.21 billion in regular funds under agency budgets.

While a total of P542.64 billion of these allotment releases had been obligated–projects awarded with the contracts to proceed with implementation– only P487.19 billion were spent to date.

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The amounts disbursed so far were:

  • P342.2 billion under Bayanihan 1
  • P135.81 billion under Bayanihan 2
  • P8.98 billion of regular funds

At the hearing of the Senate’s committee of the whole also on Tuesday, Sen. Ralph Recto asked the DBM why there remained a big amount unspent among these COVID-19 releases.

Assistant Budget Secretary Kim Robert De Leon explained that these included funds for “projects, activities and programs which are not yet due and demandable” and are therefore not disbursed yet by implementing agencies.

“As soon as these goods and/or services are delivered and rendered, these will be paid by the respective agencies. We only release cash allocations, so that the agencies can pay for such obligations,” he said.

Asked by Recto if departments and agencies slowly spent their funds, De Leon confirmed the spending bottleneck in projects’ implementation.

Congress was moving to further extend until yearend the validity of Bayanihan 2 funds, as these will expire by end of June under a previous extension approved by President Rodrigo Duterte due to slow releases prior to the original expiration in December 2020.

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TAGS: COVID-19 response, Department of Budget and Management, pandemic, Projects, unspent funds
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