Use gov’t savings to fund campaign against virus -- solon

A House leader proposed to President Rodrigo Duterte the use of government savings in the battle against coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Deputy Speaker and 1-PACMAN Rep. Mikee Romero said the savings from different agencies and department can be tapped as one source of financial aid that the government can give to the Filipinos affected by the lockdown.

“If we save 10 percent of that during the 45-day ECQ up to April 30, that will come up to P160 billion. If we save five percent, that is P80 billion in additional funds for financial aid to 18 million poor and near-poor families affected by the lockdown,” Romero noted.

President Duterte has extended until April 30 the enhanced community quarantine of the entire Luzon.

In his speech Monday night, President Duterte admitted that there are not enough sources for the P275 billion financial aid under the Bayanihan We Heal as One Act because of the slowdown of the economy.

But Romero said that since many government offices are temporarily closed and their personnel are compelled to stay home, the bureaucracy is naturally generating a lot of savings in funds for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE).

With this crisis, the only state agencies operating are those essential in the fight against Covid-19 like the Department of Health, Office of the President, Philippine National Police, the military, and Department of Social Welfare and Development.

“Even in these agencies, non-essential personnel are told to stay home and offices not directly involved in the war against the coronavirus disease are closed,” Romero, who is also the president of the Party-list Coalition Foundation Inc., said.

From the MOOE list, the bureaucracy is saving from fuel and other oil products, electricity, water, supplies and materials, communication, advertising, representation or dining out and entertainment, and travel.

He said the MOOE allocation in this year’s P4.1-trillion national budget amounts to P1.6 trillion.

The solon said the Department of Budget and Management knows where to get the savings.

The House leader said savings from the low cost of crude oil in the world market could also be used for financial assistance to the poor or for procuring essential supplies for healthcare workers.

Romero, who is an economist, noted that the cost of crude has been steadily decreasing since January from $54-$55 per barrel to less than $25.

“Since the administration’s economic team projected crude to cost between $60 and $75 per barrel when it proposed the 2020 budget, this means that the government is not spending tens of billions in appropriations for oil-related expenses,” he added.