DBM: P14.3B in funds for Office of President, OVP, other agencies diverted to COVID-19 response
More budget cuts were inflicted upon agencies—including the offices of President Rodrigo Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo—in June, as the government scrambled to secure more funds for COVID-19 response before the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act expired.
The latest Department of Budget and Management (DBM) data showed that from April to June, a net of P14.3 billion was slashed from the budgets of government departments, which were then diverted to the COVID-19 war chest.
The Bayanihan law, whose implementation lapsed last month, allowed Duterte to realign items from two sources—the P4.1-trillion 2020 national budget and continuing appropriations of the P3.7-trillion 2019 budget—to financially support the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Office of the President’s 2020 budget was reduced by P28.1 million to P8.17 billion from P8.2 billion originally, while that of the Office of the Vice President was cut by P12.3 million to P687.6 million from P699.8 million previously.
Budget Secretary Wendel E. Avisado earlier explained that the agency budget cuts were for programs, activities and projects whose implementation can be delayed to next year.
The agencies whose budgets suffered the biggest reductions included:
- Department of Public Works and Highways, reduced by P123.1 billion
- Department of Education, cut by P24.2 billion
- Commission on Higher Education, cut by P13.9 billion
- Department of Agriculture, P13.9 billion
- Department of Transportation, P8.8 billion
State universities and colleges (SUCs) also suffered a reduction of a total of P8.9-billion in budget cuts.
In all, the budgets of 42 departments and other executive offices were reduced between April and June.
In turn, agencies that are on the frontlines of the health and socioeconomic crises caused by the pandemic got additional budgets. They included:
- Department of Finance, which got an additional P35.3 billion
- Department of Health, P1.9 billion
- Department of Labor and Employment, P5.6 billion
- Department of Social Welfare and Development, P165.2 billion
These four departments and their attached agencies had implemented the social amelioration program (SAP) for poor households and displaced workers, wage subsidies for small businesses, as well as the healthcare response against the disease.
Subsidies to government-owned and/or -controlled corporations (GOCCs) was also slashed by P10.7 billion, falling to P185.3 billion from the P195.9 billion allotted in the original 2020 budget.
Allocation to local government units (LGUs), specifically those in Metro Manila, was reduced by P676.5 million, leaving the 2020 budget of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority to a lower P4.1 billion from P4.8 billion previously.
From the reallocated money, P15.6 billion was lodged into the augmentation of funds for priority COVID-19-related programs, projects and activities listed in the Bayanihan law.
Another P10 billion in realigned budget went to the special account in the general fund, nearly doubling it to P22.4 billion from P12.5 billion programmed for 2020.
By end of June, all P22.4 billion was already released from the special account, which the DBM defined as “a fund whereby proceeds of specific revenue measures and grants earmarked by law for specific priority projects are recorded”—in this case, the Bayanihan law.
Last Wednesday (July 15), Assistant Budget Secretary Rolando U. Toledo said P3.78 trillion—or 92.3 percent of the 2020 budget—was already in the first half of 2020 which he said reflected the government commitment to spend despite the pandemic.
Also, Avisado said that of the P37.5-billion Bayanihan grants to local government units for their COVID-19 responses, P7.6 billion was already liquidated by 386 LGUs.
He said most of the funds were spent on food aid, purchase of hospital equipment and other COVID-19 expenses.
Grants released to provinces, cities and municipalities formed part of the P374.9 billion in COVID-19 budget released as of June 30 under the Bayanihan law.
The releases funded medical response to the pandemic and dole outs to those who lost sources of livelihood at the height of lockdowns that paralyzed the economy, resulting in recession and millions of jobs lost.