Senators on Tuesday slammed the non-release of the multi-billion Bayanihan Funds: P10 billion to the Department of Tourism and P24 billion to the Department of Agriculture to help it cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s unfortunate,“ said Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto.
“We spent many hours and days crafting Bayanihan 2 which was certified as urgent to assist many sectors of society affected by the pandemic, only to be informed they are not ready to implement the same.
“Surely, not only will it delay the assistance needed by families and businesses but will also delay economic recovery.”
Senate Majority Leader Migz Zubiri also expressed concern over the non-release of the funds.
“I hope they won’t pay lip service. We really put the provisions there to help them,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon considered as deplorable and inexcusable the failure to release the Bayanihan 2 funds to the government agencies.
“When we were crafting Bayanihan 2, we stayed within the budget ceiling imposed by the Department of Finance,” Drilon said.
“So why are there no releases? Are the funds to back up the appropriations under Bayanihan 2 not available?”
Drilon said he could not believe that Agriculture Secretary William Dar and Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat were so negligent or dumb not to submit the appropriate Special Budget Requests.
He said the farmers and the fishermen needed it. The displaced workers and distressed MSMEs in the tourism industry needed it.
The appropriation authority under Bayanihan 2 expires on Dec. 19, 2020, and therefore DBM must release the budgets.
Drilon said after Bayanihan’s expiration on Dec 19, 2020, the 2021 GAA would become effective 12 days after.
“So why extend it? The Department of Budget and Management should release the funds appropriated before December 19,” he said.
Senator Joel Villanueva, chairman of the Senate labor committee, said even the funds under the Bayanihan 2 intended for the drivers had not yet been released.
“For the DOLE, that’s P13 billion,” Villanueva said.
“I hope we can do something as an institution and the main reason why we passed this measure is to ensure that we will be there for our kababayans in this emergency situation and until now, the funds are yet to be released.”