Budget cuts inflicted upon agencies further ballooned to a net of P34.5 billion in July as more money was diverted to COVID-19 response, Department of Budget and Management (DBM) data released on Monday (Aug. 17) showed.

Assistant Budget Secretary Rolando U. Toledo told the Inquirer that since the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act lapsed on June 25, the government was no longer allowed to reprogram funds for COVID-19-related programs and projects.

“Budget cuts tagged due to the discontinuance of programs, activities and projects in July referred to negative special allotment release orders (Saros) dated June 25 and earlier,” Toledo said in a text message.

“They were only reflected in the July matrix due to delayed tagging in our eBudget systems,” Toledo said.

Net adjustments from April to July showed the biggest budget reductions were made on:

  • Department of Public Works and Highways (P126.3 billion)
  • Department of Education (P21.9 billion)
  • Department of Transportation (P16.5 billion)
  • Commission on Higher Education (P13.9 billion)
  • Department of Agriculture (P13.9 billion)
  • Department of National Defense (P12.4 billion)
  • State universities and colleges (P9.3 billion)

The offices of President Rodrigo Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo were not spared. The Office of the President had a P28.1-million reduction, while the Office of the Vice President suffered a bigger cut of P62.9 million.

In all, the respective budgets of 51 departments and other executive offices were reduced between April and July.

Budget Secretary Wendel E. Avisado earlier explained that the budgets for programs, activities and projects whose implementation can be delayed to next year were diverted to immediate COVID-19-related financing.

This was reflected in the additional budgets injected into four front-line departments that led the fight against the COVID-19-induced health and socioeconomic crises:

  • Department of Social Welfare and Development, which received an additional P165.1 billion
  • Department of Finance, P35 billion.
  • Department of Labor and Employment, P5.6 billion
  • Department of Health, P1.9 billion

These four departments and their attached agencies had disbursed the social amelioration program (SAP) for poor families and displaced workers, as well as wage subsidies for small businesses. The DOH, meanwhile, was in charge of health care and medical response.

From April to July, budgetary support to government-owned and/or -controlled corporations (GOCCs) was reduced by P10.7 billion, while allocation to local government units (LGUs), specifically in Metro Manila, was cut by P676.5 million.

From the realigned budget items, P35.8 billion was augmented to funds for priority COVID-19-related programs, projects and activities listed in the Bayanihan law.

Another P10 billion in reallocated budget was transferred to the special account in the general fund, which the DBM had 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.

All P22.5 billion in the bigger special account was already released.

As of end-July, 94 percent or P3.86 trillion of the P4.1-trillion 2020 national budget was released, a faster pace than 89.1 percent a year ago as the pandemic entailed quicker release of funds for crisis response.

A remainder of P244.9 billion in the 2020 budget needed to be released before yearend.

TSB


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