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Bulk of Bayanihan 2 funds still unreleased

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 20) — Billions of funds under the Bayanihan 2 Act remains unreleased more than a month after President Rodrigo Duterte signed the urgent stimulus plan into law, Malacañang confirmed Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque admitted that some ₱14 billion worth of projects under the stimulus spending plan are up for approval by the Office of the President.

Broken down, this is ₱6 billion for the Department of Social Welfare and Development and ₱8 billion to the Labor Department.

The Bayanihan to Recover as One Act was signed September 11. It seeks to fund additional pandemic response and recovery initiatives, the second of its kind compared to the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act that lapsed in June.

Roque identified portions of the spending plan which have already been released, citing data from Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado:

– ₱2.5 billion to the Interior Department

– ₱855 million for the Department of National Defense and Office of Civil Defense

– ₱110 million and ₱104.6 million to the Treasury for release to local government units

– and ₱820 million to the Department of Foreign Affairs

Makati City Pabakuna

These amount to about ₱4.4 billion.

“Medyo mataas na po ang maire-release from the ₱165 billion (fund) [The releases are pretty high from the ₱165 billion (Bayanihan 2 fund)],” Roque told reporters.

Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado earlier said his agency was ready to release ₱140 billion upfront once the bill became law, adding that the balance will be disbursed if funds are available.

Senator Franklin Drilon slammed the late release of Bayanihan 2 funds, saying it was contrary to the bill’s intent of providing urgent lifelines to distressed sectors. He called Agriculture Secretary William Dar and Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat “negligent” for depriving hard-hit businesses of aid.

Drilon added that he will vote against proposals to extend the validity of the law as the agencies made it appear they did not act with urgency even when money is available.

Roque said the December expiry of the law only pertains to the release of the funds to respective agencies to carry out their projects and purchases, and not the actual payment of goods or services rendered.

“Of course, we would like it to be released sooner kasi ‘yung ₱165 billion will also act as an economic stimulus,” he added.

The Philippine economy is in recession, with lockdowns meant to curb COVID-19 infections leading to business closures, job losses, as well as rising poverty and hunger.

By Melissa Luz Lopez, CNN Philippines