Gov’t can use P10B savings to fight COVID-19 -- solon

THE government has at least P10 billion savings that can be utilized in addressing coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

This is according to Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero as he is urging the government to use the money to help the Department of Health (DOH) in its quest to contain the virus.

Romero stressed that government can save its expenses from the 30-day lockdown as well as the low fuel prices.

“That amount could be used immediately to help our affected people especially the poor and to procure badly needed personal protective equipment for our frontline health workers,” the representative of 1-PACMAN party-list said.

Following the declaration of enhanced community quarantine, most state agencies are closed and are therefore not spending their funds for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) like travel, fuel and utilities during the enhanced community quarantine period.

He said the MOOE budget of the entire bureaucracy for this year amounts to P1.6 trillion.

“One month is equivalent to 8.33 percent or P13.3 billion of MOOE saved. Assuming frontline agencies like the Department of Health are spending P3.3 billion, there is P10 billion available,” he added.

Romero, who is an economist, pointed out that huge savings would be realized as well from the low cost of crude in the world market.

He noted that in July 2019, when the administration’s economic team was putting together the 2020 national budget, its estimates for the government’s expenses for petroleum, oil, lubricants, electricity, and other oil-based spending were based on a crude oil price of $60 to $75 per barrel.

He said the price has steadily fallen since January, when President Duterte signed the budget for this year.

“The cost of crude is now $23-$24 per barrel, less than half of the assumed rates. This means that the government is realizing a lot of savings. In fact, we can drastically cut appropriations for oil-related expenses and still maintain the same level of operations as projected, such as the number of trips per government vehicle,” he said.

In fact, he said if the price remains at less than $25 per barrel, state agencies can authorize more trips for their vehicles like additional patrols for the police.