MANILA - Billions of pesos in funds for the pandemic response under Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) are "ready" and only requires paperwork for disbursement, an official said Wednesday, after senators criticized the pace of its release.
Several Cabinet aides who attended budget hearings in the Senate earlier said that at least P34 billion in COVID-19 aid funds have yet to be given to the agriculture, labor and tourism sectors, some two months before the Bayanihan 2 expires.
"Mayroon lang talagang tinatawag nating dinadaanan na proseso. May mga papeles na kailangan nating isubmit sa DBM. May mga kailangang pirmahan na papeles," Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said in an interview with government network PTV-4.
(There is just a so-called process. There are papers that need to be submitted to the Department of Budget and Management. There are documents that need to be signed.)
"Pero, rest assured sa ating mga kababayan na lahat naman po ng pondong nakalaan para po sa implementation ng Bayanihan 2 ay nandyan na po 'yan, ready at secured na po yan. It's just a matter of downloading. It's just a matter of paperwork," he added.
(But rest assured to our compatriots, all funds allocated for the implementation of the Bayanihan 2 are there, ready and secured.)
The interior, public works, and foreign affairs departments, the Office of the Civil Defense, and Bureau of Treasury have completed their paperwork and downloaded their Bayanihan 2 funds, said Nograles.
The Bayanihan 2 is the Philippines' second COVID-19 aid package which authorizes the government to spend P140 billion to help sectors affected by the pandemic. The law also earmarks P25-billion in standby funds should the government need more money to finance COVID-19-related projects.
The health department on Tuesday recorded 1,640 new coronavirus infections, the lowest daily increase in infections in 4 weeks, and 17 additional deaths. In a bulletin, the agency said total confirmed cases in the country had increased to 360,775, while deaths had reached 6,690, the second highest tallies in Southeast Asia behind Indonesia.
The Philippine economy was one of Asia's fastest-growing prior to the pandemic, but has gone into recession, with millions left jobless, due to the crisis. The World Bank forecasts the Philippine economy to contract by 6.9 percent this year, the biggest decline since the 1980s and worse than the government's projected 5.5 percent fall.
It has been gradually reopening the economy to allow more businesses to resume operations and more people to go back to work, but partial restrictions in and around the capital Manila remain to keep the virus spread in check. - With report from Reuters