Finance chief: Supplemental COVID-19 budget needs revenue support

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 19 2020 04:07 PM | Updated as of May 19 2020 04:27 PM

FILE PHOTO: A volunteer sprays alcohol and enforces physical distancing to street dwellers as they queue for their lunch inside the Malate Catholic School Gymnasium in Manila. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Philippines lacks additional revenue to support a supplemental budget against the COVID-19 pandemic and is spending cash on hand "in the most responsible way," the head of President Rodrigo Duterte's economic team told lawmakers Tuesday.

The executive branch is "not skimping on borrowing funds" and has "swept as much cash as possible" from government firms, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said.

"We do not have the required additional revenue to support an additional supplemental budget. We are living within our means," he said.

The 2-month lockdown of Metro Manila and urban centers pushed back the deadline for tax filings to May 30 from April 15. The modified enhanced community quarantine will be in effect until May 31, at that time, it would have been longer than the lockdown of Wuhan, China, where the virus was first reported.

The government collected P130 billion from GOCCs in the first 4 months of 2020, more than half of the P60 billion haul in the entire 2019, Dominguez said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the Philippines should take advantage of its high credit ratings and borrow more money from international lenders to ensure that the country's coronavirus rsponse plan is well-funded.

"We are borrowing a lot of money. We have tapped our multilateral agencies," Dominguez said.

The Finance chief said lawmakers should not "belittle" the government's coronavirus response as it spent the equivalent of 9.1 percent of gross domestic product.

The government needs to restart and "ramp up" spending through its massive infrastructure program as "this will generate jobs and it has a multiplier effect," Dominguez said.