Press Releases

Salceda on Bayanihan 2 funds: Last-minute rush to spend is better than losing needed funding

July 7th, 2021

Salceda on Bayanihan 2 funds: Last-minute rush to spend is better than losing needed funding, but planning is better than cramming; House economic recovery co-chair says “COVID-pressured” provinces still in need of help

House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd district) says that the push to obligate Bayanihan 2 funds at the last month prior to its expiry last June 30 is a “positive development” but adds that the tactical plan for spending the allotments under the package could have been better formulated, as the Albay solon observed that “as of June 25, the unobligated funds have been reduced from 18.1 billion in May to just 6.487 billion.”

“I think the unobligated residual will be lower once the final agency reports come in on July 15. The final effort to completely spend Bayanihan 2 allotments is a welcome development. But, of course, planning is better than cramming,” Salceda said.

Salceda adds that it was accurate that all funds were released to the implementing agencies, and that the remaining unobligated balance is just at P6.49 billion.

“The release of funds from DBM was never really the issue. The problem is really with obligating and disbursing the allotments. As of the June 25 report of the Department of Budget and Management, some P6.487 billion in Bayanihan 2 allotments have not yet been obligated, and some P20.3 billion have not yet been released,” Salceda noted.

Contact tracing, healthcare workers budget still needed

“Some degree of underspending typically happens with or without a crisis, but we could not afford to underspend on healthcare interventions and on contact tracing during a pandemic,” Salceda added.

Salceda cited a 2016 UP School of Economics Paper (Discussion Paper, No. 2016-12) which estimated that underspending accounted for around 10% of planned disbursements from 2011-2015, and noted that underspending for Bayanihan 2 was just around 4.6% as of the June 25 report.

“In general, the government tried to spend. Underspending happens but underspending for healthcare workers and contact tracers during a pandemic is a more central issue. The issue I was raising when I sought a special session is the criticality of some of the items that were expiring. As of June 25, DOH still had P266 million for added healthcare workers, and DILG still had P580 million for hiring contact tracers. We still need these items,” Salceda said.

“The National Task Force has been very proactive in responding to our requests for help, but post-June 30, I don’t know where they will get excess money for emergency requests such as those we in Albay were able to make out of DOH and the NTF prior to the pandemic. I hope they still have some resources set aside. That was my main concern,” Salceda added.

“Perhaps the budget and fiscal managers did not recommend a special session for Bayanihan 2 lest it open the door for a big Bayanihan 3. But we in the House are ready to adjust our proposals based on the resources we have,” Salceda said.

“Nonetheless, the decision has been made that there will be no special session. So, we will move on and ask the DOH and DILG for alternatives so localities dealing with a COVID-19 surge can still get help from the national government for healthcare human resources and for contact tracers. And, we will take continuing needs into account as we craft supportive legislation, possibly Bayanihan 3. That is the productive and constructive way forward,” Salceda concluded

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