MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives will allocate funds for COVID-19 vaccine procurement in the proposed P4.3-trillion budget for 2021.
Speaker Alan Cayetano said this in a press statement released on Saturday, June 27, adding that he found the proposed budget being crafted by the Duterte administration as very conservative
“We know they are being cautious about the deficit, but funds should already be allocated for the COVID-19 vaccine,” Cayetano said.
“What if there is a vaccine and they won’t supply unless you pay at once? So the funds should already be available in the budget,” he added.
Cayetano said that Congress can label the funds as “COVID-related programs” so that if the vaccine is not yet available, the funds may be used for testing or procurement of medical supplies.
“They won’t have to go back to Congress for additional appropriation,” he said.
As of June, the World Health Organization (WHO) said researchers around the world are working on more than 200 vaccine candidates for COVID-19, and that they expected hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses before 2021.
Aside from vaccine funds, Cayetano said that the House will also include economic stimulus appropriations in the budget to help affected sectors recover from the pandemic. These funds would be in addition to those that would be included in Bayanihan 2 or the planned We Recover as One Law.
Bayanihan 2 Act
Cayetano said Congress and the Department of Finance are close to agreeing on the final version of the Bayanihan 2 Act, which would allocate up to P200 billion for recovery programs and projects.
Bayanihan 2 would also include loans for small and medium businesses, funds for more testing and medical supplies, and for tourism, Cayetano said. Part of the budget would also go to the requirements of the blended learning program of the Department of Education, he added.
Cayetano also stressed that the House wants Bayanihan 2 to be more detailed, compared to the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act which, he said, was very general and broad in its language.
“For example, we don’t want to allocate funds for tourism in general. We want to be more specific. Is the money for facilities, infrastructure, or is it for training of tourist guides? But we are also discussing some flexibility for the executive branch,” he said.
Cayetano also said that he had alerted his colleagues should President Rodrigo Duterte call for a special session of Congress during the recess to approve the proposed law. – Rappler.com