MANILA - Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Monday pushed to extend the validity of the 2020 budget of several key agencies that have yet to spend their funding this year less than 2 months before it expires.
Under the law, agencies can only spend their annual funding until December 31 of each year, before the unspent money is reverted back to the National Treasury.
"Hindi problema yung cash. Ang problema, mabagal 'yung spending especially now during the calamity," Recto said during the budget deliberations in the Senate plenary.
(Cash is not the problem. The problem is the slow spending especially during the calamity.)
"Kung ayaw nilang buong 2020 budget, puwedeng some departments," he said.
(If they don't want to extend the validity of the entire 2020 budget, we can just extend for some departments.)
Among the agencies expected to be allowed to spend their 2020 budget beyond the year-end deadline are as follows:
- Department of Health
- Department of Education
- Department of Public Works and Highways
- Department of Labor and Employment
- Department of Social Welfare and Development
- Department of Agriculture
- Technical Education and Skills Development Authority
Giving agencies more funds to spend will help the Philippines pull down the expected contraction of the economy to single-digit numbers, Recto said.
"Those who lost their jobs and those who lost their houses cannot wait until January for assistance. I hope they (agencies) can spend it in the next weeks... ubusin na nila yun (they should spend all of that)," he said.
"If we borrow again next year... hopefully it is not impounded but spent," he said.
Senate Committee on Finance chair Sonny Angara agreed with Recto's proposal, noting that only P82.4 billion of the P140-billion Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, the country's second COVID-19 relief package, has been spent.
Angara said he was also open to crafting a third Bayanihan package to provide aid for typhoon victims.
"I am not against that idea. There are preliminary talks. My only fear is we may run out of time in our calendar to pass it," he said.
The Senate will go on a month-long break in mid-December, but Recto said that they can easily pass the measure before the expected adjournment of session.
"There should be enough time to pass a supplemental budget for those who were affected by the last 3 typhoons," Recto said.
In October, Recto passed a separate resolution seeking to extend the validity of the Bayanihan 2 law, which will expire on December 19.