MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) last month inflicted additional cuts in this year’s budgets for infrastructure and national defense as it reallocated more funds into increasing expenses for COVID-19 response.

DBM documents showed that in May, another P3 billion was reduced from the 2020 budget of the Department of National Defense (DND), bringing it further down to P182 billion.

In April, the DND’s budget was already cut by P6.7 billion, bringing the cumulative reduction under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act to P9.7 billion.

The Bayanihan Law allowed realignment of agency budgets into the government’s response in addressing the health and socioeconomic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

DND’s original appropriations for 2020 amounted to P191.7 billion.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) also suffered another P1-billion budget cut, bringing the two-month reduction to P122.9 billion.

As such, DPWH was left with P457.9 billion to spend out of its original P580.9-billion allocation under the P4.1-trillion 2020 national budget.

After DPWH, other agencies with the biggest budget cuts so far were the Department of Education (P21.8 billion) and Commission on Higher Education (P13.9 billion), whose reductions were approved in April.

In all, departments suffered a total P7.9-billion cut in their budgets as of May, up from P5.3 billion a month ago.

During a Senate hearing last month, Budget Secretary Wendel E. Avisado explained that the budget reductions covered program, activities, and projects whose implementation have not yet started and can be delayed to next year.

On the flip side, the reduction in the budget for state universities and colleges (SUCs) was narrowed to P7.2 billion in May from P7.6 billion last April.

In turn, another P1 billion was added to the budget of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), bringing up the agency’s total additional funds to P2.5 billion.

From the reallocated money so far, P3.65 billion was lodged into the augmentation of funds for priority COVID-19-related programs, projects, and activities listed in Section 4 (v) of the Bayanihan Law as of May, a jump from P1.05 billion in April.

The bigger P9.3 billion in realigned budget remained in the special account in the general fund, which now stood at a larger P21.8 billion from the P12.5 billion programmed under the 2020 national budget.

At end-May, P20.6 billion or 94.5 percent of the total were already released from the special account, which the DBM defined as “a fund whereby proceeds of specific revenue measures and grants earmarked by law for specific priority projects are recorded”— in this case, the Bayanihan Law.

During the first five months, a total of P3.7 trillion or 91.1 percent of this year’s national budget was already released to agencies.

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