The government has yet to utilize some P18 billion in funds for the Philippine COVID-19 response under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) that will expire by the end of the month, Malacañang confirmed on Monday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque also said he had no information on whether or not President Rodrigo Duterte would call a special session of Congress to extend the validity of the Bayanihan 2 COVID-19 response fund.
Quoting the budget department, Roque said P123.2 billion or 87.01 percent of the Bayanihan 2 funds have been “obligated.”
“It is correct that we have P18.4 billion or 13 percent that has not yet been obligated,” Roque said but did not say why.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda had pushed for a special session while Congress is in recess so that the validity of the Bayanihan 2 could be extended.
When the legislated funding expires on June 30, so would the budget for COVID-19 contact tracers hired under Bayanihan 2, among others, Salceda warned.
Roque said he would ask Duterte whether or not he would call for a special session.
“We respect po the wisdom of Congress because they issue the policy,” he added.
Congress went on recess last June 5 and would resume its session when Duterte delivers his sixth and last State of the Nation Address on July 26.
The Philippine government in 2021 worked with 3 major fund appropriations, including this year’s national budget, the 2020 budget whose validity was extended until Dec. 31, and the Bayanihan 2 which was first extended until June 30.
The Bayanihan 2 law, which was passed to meet the country’s economic and health requirements amid the COVID-19 pandemic, was given an allocation of P165 billion in 2020.
Salceda said the untapped Bayanihan 2 law funds include P6.6 billion for lab testing and human resources for health and P873 million for contact tracing, which are critical amid the country’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.