emergency subsidy program in PH

Economic team now looking to fund cash aid for areas outside ‘NCR Plus’

Aika Rey

WAITING. Residents of Baseco Compound line up for financial assistance from the government's emergency subsidy program, in Tondo, Manila, on May 2, 2020.

Rappler file photo

In 2020, economic managers maintained cash assistance would not be needed in the 2021 budget. Now, they're looking for ways to fund it.

After saying that cash grants will not be needed in the P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021, the government’s economic team is now looking for ways to fund another round of cash aid for areas that may be placed under lockdown.

Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado confirmed on Wednesday, April 7, that certain austerity measures will be implemented to widen the fiscal space.

Since remaining funds under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) were already used for cash aid in the Greater Manila Area, the government will have to look for sources to supplement the cash aid-deprived 2021 budget.

“What about other regions [that] may experience the same kind of reclassification later on? That’s the thing we are preparing for. By then, we would be needing the assistance of Congress for an enabling law similar to Bayanihan 1 and 2,” Avisado said at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum.

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Déjà vu?

In 2020, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) issued a belt-tightening order, National Budget Circular No. 580, to slash government expenses by 35% to fund the coronavirus response.

For 2021, Avisado said the Office of the President is preparing a similar measure that will “most likely sweep some of the funds available from national government agencies, government-owned and controlled corporations, and those that can be generated by the Department of Finance.”

An executive order, the budget chief said, will be issued by President Rodrigo Duterte to make it official.

Avisado added that projects which have yet to be implemented may be included. In 2020, members of the House of Representatives were furious at the DBM when their pet projects were canceled to fund pandemic response. The remaining sum of these projects – around P135 billion – was included in the 2021 budget.(READ: 2021 budget: The battle for ‘pork’)

Supplemental budget or Bayanihan 3?

As it stands, the executive branch has yet to decide whether it will support pending Bayanihan 3 bills in Congress or lobby instead for a supplemental budget.

Avisado told Rappler that this will be agreed upon by the executive and the legislative branches eventually. Throughout the Duterte administration, however, the DBM has only floated the idea of a supplemental budget, but no action has ever been taken.

As for how much, the economic team will meet in the 3rd week of April to determine the available sources of funding. – Rappler.com

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Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.