MANILA - Opposition Sen. Francis Pangilinan said Thursday he would file a resolution next week to seek an investigation into the Duterte administration’s supposed underspending of funds allocated under emergency Bayanihan laws passed to provide critical aid to the poor through the COVID-19 crisis.
The Department of Agriculture so far has only spent 25 percent of its allotted budget to aid crisis-affected sectors, Pangilinan said.
The Department of Public Works and Highways also registers annual budget underspending, he added.
"Nasa emergency situation tayo pero ang release ng pondo ay parang hindi emergency,” the senator told reporters.
(We're in an emergency but the release of funds does not seem like it.)
“Sabi nga, aanhin mo pa 'yung damo kung patay na 'yung kabayo? I think part of the reason why hindi tayo mabilis makapag-recover, apart from itong delay sa pagpapatupad ng ating COVID response, kakulangan ng contact tracing, kakulangan ng testing at ngayon ay kakulangan ng vaccine rollout… ay 'yung mabagal at makupad na pagre-release ng pondo ng gobyerno."
(There's a saying, what will you do with the grass if the horse is already dead? I think part of the reason why we can't recover quickly, apart from this delay in our COVID response, lack of contact tracing, and slow vaccine rollout... is the slow release of government funds.)
Pangilinan said he wouldn’t mind supporting a possible third Bayanihan law, but on the condition that all funds allocated under the previous COVID response measures Bayanihan to Heal As One Act and Bayanihan to Recover as One Act be released and properly spent first.
“What’s the point in passing Bayanihan 3 if the funds will suffer the same fate as Bayanihan 2... alamin natin 'yung unang hakbang ng gobyerno para gastusin 'yung nakabinbin at nakatengga na pondo nung Bayanihan 2,” he said.
(Let's look into government's first steps in spending idle funds under Bayanihan 2.)
The Philippines ranked 79th out of 98 nations evaluated for their handling of the coronavirus crisis, according to Australian think-tank Lowy Institute.
Its economy shrunk 8.3 percent in the last quarter of 2020, leading to a full year contraction of 9.5 percent and is expected to be among the last in the Asia-Pacific region to recover from the economic recession due to the pandemic. Malacañang has said it would disprove the forecast.