After appeal for supplemental budget, gov’t says enough funds for COVID-19 response

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 20 2020 02:32 PM

Residents of a depressed community in Barangay Paligsahan, Quezon City line up for relief goods being distributed by barangay officers on Thursday, March 19, 2020. Local officials in the barangay level are dipping into their calamity funds to provide relief assistance to communities affected by the Luzon lockdown, which government implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19, halting work and mass transport, among others. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The government assured Filipinos Friday of enough funds to control the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) even as President Rodrigo Duterte asked Congress to pass a P1.6 billion supplemental budget to support the country’s fight against the pandemic.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles made the remark, without citing how much budget is needed by the government to properly address the pandemic.

“Totoo po may pera po ang gobyerno (It’s true that the government has funds). We have the funds to battle COVID-19 and take care of all Filipinos,” Nograles said during a televised press briefing, while noting that “we need the help of Congress.”

The Senate earlier said it will convene in a special session either on Saturday or Monday to deliberate Duterte's request for a P1.6 billion supplemental budget.

The government earlier rolled out a P27.1-billion package in support of the Philippine economy to provide relief to sectors affected by the economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The package, according to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, aims to ensure that there is enough funding for the Department of Health to contain the spread of COVID-19, and to provide economic relief to businesses affected by the disease outbreak.

Finance Assistant Secretary Tony Lambino on Friday meanwhile said the government is ensuring that displaced Filipino workers can find jobs after the community quarantine in several parts of the Philippines.

“Nag-iinvest din ang gobyerno para makabalik sa trabaho ang mga mamamayan pag tapos na ang community quarantine at nang makaahon ang ekonomiya,” he said in a separate media briefing.

(The government is investing so that people can return to their jobs after the community quarantine and so that the economy could recover.)

Duterte earlier this week placed the entire Philippines under a state of calamity as the government sought to tap quick response funds to provide basic goods like food and medical equipment to frontline workers. The declaration also provides enough leeway to local government units to better respond to the pandemic.

The government needs more funds to support indigent families who now have no income due to the mandatory suspension of public transportation, malls, and other non-essential establishments in areas under quarantine.

In the Philippines, the global pandemic has infected 217 patients, 17 of whom died, 8 recovered, while the rest are still recuperating from the disease.

Globally, COVID-19, which originated from Wuhan, China, had killed 9,000 people and infected 200,000 others.