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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Anakalusugan Rep. Defensor: 20% Gov’t Savings To Augment Covid Response Fund Pushed

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A party-list lawmaker said President Rodrigo Duterte can impose mandatory savings of at least 20 percent by cutting travel, seminar, and other non-essential expenses of the bureaucracy.

In a statement, Anakalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor said the newly signed Bayanihan to Heal as One law authorizes the President to “reallocate and reprogram” funds in the PHP4.1 trillion 2020 national budget to augment allocations for combating the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

“The tens of billions we can save by reducing unnecessary expenses can be used to fight the coronavirus disease or Covid-19,” Defensor said.

Defensor noted that part of the PHP1.6-trillion appropriation for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) could be cut, especially “at this time of public health emergency or even in normal times.”

He cited that among the non-essential items in the MOOE appropriations include: travel expenses at PHP19.4 billion; training and scholarship at PHP32.9 billion; supplies and materials at PHP108.3 billion; and representation, or dining out and entertainment by officials and their guests at PHP5.2 billion.

He added that other items that could be reduced are communication, PHP10.7 billion; hiring of consultants, PHP29 billion; advertising, PHP3 billion; subscription, PHP4.1 billion; and donations, PHP41.8 billion; printing and publication, PHP1.9 billion; and membership dues and contributions to organizations, PHP2.4 billion.

“These are programmed and budgeted expenses we clearly can scrimp on or do away with while we are battling this pandemic. We can use the money to buy badly needed personal protective equipment items for our frontline health workers or as a subsidy to the poor who are forced to stay home,” he said.

He said the government could also forego the purchase of new vehicles at PHP4.1 billion; construction of more buildings at PHP99 billion; the procurement of new furniture and fixtures at PHP603 million; and the acquisition of additional machinery and equipment at PHP67.9 billion.

“We can make do with what we presently have while facing Covid-19,” he said.

Defensor highlighted that just by imposing 10-percent mandatory savings across the board on MOOE items could free up PHP160 billion, which could be used to boost the government’s fight against the coronavirus.

President Rodrigo Duterte has signed the ‘Bayanihan to Heal as One Act’ which grants him additional powers to implement measures to fight the coronavirus spread.

The following items in the budget shall be prioritized for augmentation: the operational budgets of government hospitals (primarily those identified for treatment of Covid-19), emergency preparedness and response, quick response fund under the Department of Health; the operational budget of the Philippine General Hospital under the University of the Philippines; the National Disaster Risk Reduction Fund or the Calamity Fund; and allocations to local government units.

Other priorities include programs of the Department of Labor and Employment such as the livelihood assistance for disadvantaged and displaced workers and Covid-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP); livelihood seeding program under the Department of Trade and Industry; the financial assistance program for rice farmers under the Department of Agriculture; the school-based feeding program under the Department of Education; and the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS), distribution of food and non-food items; and livelihood assistance grants under the Department of Social Welfare and Development. (PNA)

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