Recto seeks Bayanihan 2 extension after DBM fails to release funds to agencies

Katrina Domingo and Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 20 2020 10:31 AM | Updated as of Oct 21 2020 12:24 AM

DBM says delays in some gov't agencies hindered immediate release of funds

Jeepney drivers beg for spare change as they troop outside the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board main office in Quezon City on August 20, 2020. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA (UPDATE)- Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Tuesday said Congress may have to work to "extend" the validity of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) after the executive branch failed to release portions of the P140-billion COVID-19 aid package to various agencies.

The Bayanihan 2 - a follow-up funding bill for the Philippines' first COVID-19 relief measure - is set to expire on December 19, when the legislative branch adjourns for a month-long break for the Christmas and New Year holidays.

"We probably will have to extend validity of Bayanihan 2," Recto told reporters in a text message.

"It’s unfortunate. We spent many hours and days crafting Bayanihan 2 which was certified as urgent to assist many sectors of society much affected by the pandemic only to be informed they are not ready to implement the same," he said.

Senators earlier found that the DBM has yet to release some P24 billion earmarked for agricultural loans and assistance to farmers, and another P10 billion for the tourism sector, which was forced shut by the global pandemic earlier this year.

Other agencies have reportedly not yet received additional funding authorized under the Bayanihan 2.

"Surely, not only will it delay the assistance needed by families and businesses but will also delay economic recovery," Recto said.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri has yet to respond on when the oversight panel for the Bayanihan 2 will convene to discuss reported delays in the implementation of the law.

But according to the DBM, delays in the submission of complete requirements by some agencies hindered the immediate release of COVID-19 aid funds under Bayanihan 2.

The DBM said the Department of Agriculture has only submitted special budget request for P11-billion funding so far. The special budget request details where the funds will go.

“Ang natatanggap pa lang namin ay ‘yung request nila for P11 billion. Wala naman po silang request totaling P24 billion eh,” Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado told ABS-CBN News.

“Ang sinabi nila, within the week, isu-sumite nila ‘yung balanseng P13 billion para po mabuo yung P24 billion,” he added.

Avisado said the DBM will submit to the Office of the President the memo recommending the release of DA’s P11 billion funding for approval.

He also noted in memos recommending to the OP the release of funds to small business corporations for loans to tourism-related MSMEs, and to the Department of Labor and Employment for aid to displaced tourism workers will be out within 24 hours.

“Ang order ko nga ay madaliin lahat ‘yun at kailangan mailabas within the week,” Avisado said.

He has instructed the DBM to call agencies with pending technical requirements.

“Nag-issue nga kami giving all the departments up to the end of the month within which to submit all of these requirements, para po may panahon pa sila to implement all of these projects dahil nga mag-eexpire ‘yung batas hanggang December 19 lamang,” Avisado said.

He stressed that the DBM is not the cause of delay in releasing the funds under the Bayanihan 2.

“It’s going to be very irresponsible kung ituturo kami na kami ang culprit, dahil po kami ay nagmamadali mismo dahil alam namin ang timetable ng Presidente po,” Avisado said.

“Wala po kaming intensyon na mag-delay. Bagkus, pagagalitan pa kami ng Pangulo kung gagawin namin’ yan. Sumunod lang po tayo sa procedure, dahil po madalian lang naman din po kami,” he added.

He said the agency could submit the memo to the OP for the approval of budget releases in a matter of hours as long as the requirements are complete.

“Kung oras lang sana bakit hindi. Kung talagang kakayanin at kumpleto po lahat ‘yung detalye,” Avisado said.

He also assured the public that funding is available for the P140 billion earmarked for programs under Bayanihan 2.