Senate to DBM: Hasten release of Bayanihan 2 funds

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    THE Department of Budget and Management (DBM) should fasttrack the release of funds to government agencies listed as recipients under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (RA 11494), senators told Malacañang yesterday as it responded to President Duterte’s compliance report to the Senate.

    In the Senate’s October 21 comment to the President’s report dated October 5, senators said they found nothing in the report on “whether several provisions of RA 11494 are already being implemented… Considering that Bayanihan 2 will lapse by December 19, we urgently call on all implementing agencies to fast-track the issuance of guidelines for the remaining provisions of the law that have yet to be covered by existing implementing rules and regulations.”

    The senators noted that despite the Bureau of Treasury’s issuance of a certification of additional revenues and availability of funds, the DBM had only released P3.545 billion in allotment to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

    The DBM, on October 20, said that only 3.2 percent or P4.413 billion of the P140 billion Bayanihan 2 funds were released to the DILG (P2.52 billion), Office of the Civil Defense ((P855.19 million), Bureau of Treasury (P215.48 million), and Department of Foreign Affairs (P820 million).

    The senators noted that funds have yet to be released to the Department of Labor and Employment (P8 billion), Department of Social Welfare and Development (P6 billion), Department of Agriculture (P11.63 billion), and the Department of Health (P20.58 billion).

    During the Department of Tourism’s budget hearing early this week, Sec. Bernadette Romulo-Puyat also complained that P10 billion worth of funds for her department have not been released by the DBM.

    Agriculture Sec. William Dar, during his department budget hearing early this week, said that they are still waiting for the release of more than P24 billion allocated in Bayanihan 2 for its “Plant, Plant, Plant” programs which include direct cash aid, zero interest loans, and other assistance to the agri-fishery enterprises, farmers, and fisherfolks.

    “Considering the above, we urgently call on the DBM to immediately issue the necessary Special Allotment Release Order (SAROs) to all implementing agencies, even pending the issuance of their respective guidelines. Likewise, we call on the implementing agencies to fast track their submission of the required budget execution documents (BEDs) to further facilitate release of said funds,” the senators said.

    The comments were compiled by the office of Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee, and were made public on Thursday.

    Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said the DBM should not be blamed for the release of the funds. Avisado, in a briefing, said the release of the P140 billion has yet to be approved by the Office of the President.

    He said the DBM had already submitted a request for the President’s approval of the release of P46.1 billion of the Bayanihan 2 fund to various agencies, which include P20.5 billion for the DOH; P11.6 billion for the DA; P8 billion for the DOLE; and P6 billion for the DSWD.

    “Under the law, it’s only the President who can approve all of these. So we need to send the request to him and once he approves it, we can issue the SARO and NCA,” he said.

    Avisado said P24.6-billion worth of funds are now being processed for release.

    Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who said that he will ask for an update from Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on the status of the requests, said the Office of the President and Office of the Executive Secretary are still reviewing the DBM request and ensuring that it is “really justified.”

    Avisado assured the public that the money is there and that every centavo of the fund would be spent properly and only for its intended purpose. – With Jocelyn Montemayor