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More funds for vaccine procurement sought

Mike Defensor
Rep. Mike Defensor

AS coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) vaccines are rolling out for use, mostly in in some rich countries, Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor on Sunday lamented the failure of Congress to allocate additional funds for vaccine procurement despite the P183 billion realignments made by the bicameral conference committee in the “programmed” or tax-funded portion of the proposed P4.5 trillion national budget for next year.

Defensor, the emerging genuine fiscalizer and balancing force in the House of Representatives especially on the legislation work, said Congress maintained the vaccine acquisition fund at P2.5 billion as proposed by Malacañang and the P72 billion augmentation fund was placed under the “unprogrammed items” in the 2021 national budget or programs that can be implemented only if there are available funds.

“They augmented it by P72 billion, but this was relegated to the ‘un-programmed’ part of the budget that could be used only if there is excess tax revenue, a new tax or a loan,” stresses Defensor, former chairman of the House committee on public accounts, based on the final version of the proposed P4.5-trillion 2021 national.

Defensor noted that the administration’s economic managers are eyeing borrowings to finance vaccine procurement.

“We could have funded this from taxes instead of relying on lenders for money to buy badly-needed vaccines,” he said.

Defensor also said Congress has given Vice President Leni Robredo an additional P229 million for next year, increasing her budget to exactly P900 million.

He added that the House of Representatives and Senate have also supplemented their funds by P1 billion each, bringing their combined funding to P28.5 billion.

According to Defensor, the legislature retained the outlay for the office of President Rodrigo Duterte at P8.2 billion.

Defensor added that the P229-million augmentation Robredo is getting will most likely go to her “financial assistance/subsidy” allocation, which is the equivalent of a lawmaker’s pork barrel, and to the purchase of six new vehicles.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque has announced that the President is scheduled to sign the proposed 2021 national budget today (Monday).

Roque said Duterte is expected to veto some appropriations.

Defensor said the increases for Robredo’s office and for the House of Representatives and the Senate were part of the P183 billion in realignments the two chambers made in the “programmed items.”

“None of that amount was added to the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines that will save lives and livelihood, revive the economy and return the country to pre-pandemic normality,” Defensor said.

Publication Source :    People's Tonight