House panel OKs supplemental budget for COVID-19 despite DBM refusal

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 10 2020 08:08 PM

House panel OKs supplemental budget for COVID-19 despite DBM refusal 1

MANILA - The House Appropriations Committee approved on Tuesday a P1.6 billion supplemental budget for the Department of Health to cover the government's needs to address the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.

The approval came after the consolidation of House Bills 6166 and 6177 that each proposed a P2 billion supplemental budget. The Bureau of Treasury, however, certified only P1.6 billion is available as of March 10.

Congress is not allowed to pass a budget without certification of available funds.

Assuring lawmakers that government is prepared for COVID-19, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said there is still no community transmission in the country as some of the existing cases are only local transmission.

The health department said it needs P2.35 billion for personal protective equipment (PPE), P933 million for the Bureau of Quarantine, and P139 million for 40,000 testing sets for the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, for a total of more than P3 billion.

Health Undersecretary Roger Tong-an told the committee though that the agency can already source its requirements from PAGCOR, the DOH Savings, PCSO, and Quick Response Fund, which could total to P4.6 billion.

Duque explained that the PPE costs P1,500 per set, for 5,000 workers working 90 days at 3 shifts each.

Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite asked his colleagues if the P56 billion contingent fund from the 2020 budget could be utilized instead.

Health Committee Chair Helen Tan reported though that Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado informed her during the inter-agency task force meeting Monday night that a supplemental budget is not needed, citing the fund sources mentioned by DOH.

If ever, a supplemental budget may be considered in May, if needed, based on their assessment, Tan said.

She explained she wanted the budget certified as urgent so it can be approved on 2nd and 3rd reading the same day. But that was declined.

The Committee approved to consolidate the 2 House bills authored by Tan and Rep. Joey Salceda for a supplemental budget worth P1.6 billion, and authorizing it to be valid until fully spent.

It was the first hearing of new appropriations committee chair, Eric Yap.