MANILA - Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Friday questioned why programmed allocations for intelligence and confidential funds, as well as the government's anti-insurgency program, are higher than funding for COVID-19 vaccines under the 2021 national budget.
While Congress authorized the executive branch to disburse P72.5 billion for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines next year, only P2.5 billion has guaranteed funding under the 2021 budget, while the remaining P70 billion needs to be sourced from loans or excess non-tax revenue collections.
"It is like we issue a check without adequate funding. Sana po hindi mag-bounce (Let's hope it does not bounce)," Drilon said in a statement.
"There is no definite revenue source for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccine but there are P16.4 billion for anti-insurgency and P9.5 billion for confidential and intelligence funds," he said.
'GIVE ANTI-INSURGENCY PROGRAM A CHANCE'
The government earlier said that the P16.4-billion anti-insurgency fund would be used to put up basic services and facilities in villages deemed "cleared" of communist rebels.
In a separate statement, Senate President Vicente Sotto III appealed to critics of the anti-insurgency program to give the campaign "a chance.
"Kapag natanggal mo ang insurgency sa isang area, halimbawa isang barangay or isang maliit na munisipyo o sitio, hindi natatapos ang trabaho doon," he said.
(When you remove insurgency from an area, for example a village or a small municipality, the work does not stop there.)
"Kailangan lagyan mo iyong lugar ng mga paaralan, bigyan mo ng pagkakakitaan ang mga residente, tulungan mong makabangon muli ang mga tao," he said.
(You have to put up schools there, give residents livelihood to help them recover.)
"Ganoon ang dapat gawin dahil kung hindi, masisira ulit ang tingin nila sa pamahalaan."
(If that is not done, they will just lose trust in the government again.)
Senate Committee on Finance chair Sen. Sonny Angara earlier said that Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez assured lawmakers that there would be sufficient funding for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate poor Filipinos next year.
But Angara also conceded to other senators' observations that the executive branch has yet to give details about the government's plan on the procurement, storage and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
"Where is the vaccine roadmap? Where's the plan? The lack of a clear roadmap adds to the worries of Filipinos about the future of our country insofar as our ability to fight the pandemic," Drilon said.
"Our health system unfortunately at this stage is a big question mark to me because of the very fluid plans for the acquisition, funding of the vaccine and the logistical expense that goes with it," he said.
Congress initially agreed to allocate P8 billion in programmed funds for COVID-19 vaccines, but the allotment was reverted to P2.5 billion after the House withdrew its proposal to increase the fund by P5.5 billion during bicameral deliberations.
Health officials earlier said the Philippines needs to inoculate at least 60 million Filipinos against COVID-19 for the country to develop herd immunity against the disease.
Some lawmakers are eyeing to extend the validity of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2), where an additional P8 billion is earmarked for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines.
If Congress fails to pass a measure that would extend the validity of Bayanihan 2, the Philippines' second stimulus package will expire on December 19 and unobligated funds under the law will be reverted to the National Treasury.