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Government crafts austerity moves to find Bayanihan 3 sources

THE Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is ironing out with the Executive branch the issuance of an Executive Order on “austerity measures” to help finance Bayanihan 3 or a supplemental budget, which lawmakers deem needed to help both businesses and workers as the National Capital Region and four nearby provinces were placed on two-week lockdown to stop the surge of Covid cases..

Budget Secretary Wendel E. Avisado said on Wednesday they aim to gather the funds by “re-channeling” the budget allotted to “non-essential items and programs” of the government, including travel expenses and budget for seminars and representation.

“We are working it out at the executive department—an executive order for the observance of austerity measures and most likely to sweep some funds that are available at the moment from national government agencies, and government-owned and -controlled corporations, and those that can be generated by Department of Finance [DOF],” he told the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum.

While DBM is open to having a supplemental budget or the Bayanihan 3, Avisado said they are also trying to determine sources of funding for these.

“[We are doing this] precisely to come up with a more determinable amount with which to match the efforts of Congress because there are varying amounts
insofar as the various bills filed are being currently considered,” he said. “We have a high of P600 billion, P420 billion and there’s a little over P200 or 300 billion, so we are trying to really look out what will be the appropriate or approximate amount that the DOF can raise and those that we can also gather from the available funds of various national government agencies to help finance the Bayanihan 3,” he said.

However, Avisado clarified that the infrastructure projects under the government’s Build, Build, Build program will not be affected by the austerity measures.

“As much as we can, no, because these are what we have precisely identified as activities and projects that will help us recover and [help] the economy to bounce back,” he said.

Senator Manny Pacquiao has filed Senate Bill No. 2123, seeking a P335 billion expanded stimulus package.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is seeking the passage of P420-billion stimulus package under Bayanihan 3.

Earlier, House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the DOF assured the House there are efforts to identify funding for Bayanihan 3.

To partially fund the government’s response to the pandemic last year, the DBM also resorted to belt-tightening measures by halting the release of 35 percent of programmed appropriations under the 2020 national budget, and discontinuing at least 10 percent of the total released allotments for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE), and capital outlays (CO) of all national government departments and agencies and operating units for programs and projects.

Discontinued were the unnecessary local and foreign travels by the government; purchase of motor vehicles except for ambulances  and those required by the military and uniformed personnel for the direct exercise of their public safety functions; and hiring of job orders, except those considered as frontliners, among others.

Image credits: Nonie Reyes

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