MANILA, Philippines — The government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic jacked-up infrastructure spending in April as additional health and quarantine facilities were built during the month to prepare for any surge in cases.

The latest Department of Budget and Management (DBM) data showed that infrastructure and capital outlay disbursements last April jumped 41.9 percent to P40.1 billion from P28.3 billion a year ago.

April infrastructure expenditures were nonetheless smaller than March’s P62.2 billion.

In a report, DBM partly attributed the higher year-on-year spending on infrastructure in April to “construction of COVID-19 quarantine facilities and purchase of medical equipment of the Department of Health (DOH).”

April’s infrastructure spending was also boosted by “acquisition of transport equipment under the revised Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program of the Department of National Defense (DND), and implementation of regular road infrastructure programs of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH),” DBM said.

But for the four-month period ending in April, the amount spent by the government on infrastructure and other capital outlays declined 4.9 percent to P196.2 billion from P206.4 billion last year.

“[End-April] infrastructure spending was lower year-on-year due to the base effect of high infrastructure expenditures in the same period last year brought about by the payment of prior years’ accounts payables, and the temporary suspension of construction activities due to the implementation of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) measure,” the DBM explained.

As the COVID-19 quarantine eases, DBM said this “should facilitate the resumption of construction activities of the DPWH and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) so they can speed up the implementation of public infrastructure projects, with the intention to catch up with the unintended delays during the ECQ.”

Movement restrictions during the ECQ stopped both public and private construction activity in areas accounting for 75 percent of the domestic economy.

For instance, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) had thumbed down the economic team’s earlier proposal for implementing agencies to continue construction of big-ticket infrastructure projects even as there was a lull in other economic activities during the lockdown.

Under the current general community quarantine (GCQ) setup in most parts of the country, some infrastructure projects had been allowed to resume as long as complying with minimum safety standards.

For this year, the Cabinet-level Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) had programmed to spend P775.1 billion or 4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on infrastructure, including disbursements from national government infrastructure, infrastructure subsidy and equity to state-run corporations, as well as transfers to local government units (LGUs) for their infrastructure projects, which the DBM said included payables from the current year’s budget and prior years’ obligations.


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