Govt crafts austerity moves to find Bayanihan 3 sources

- By Bernadette D. Nicolas @Bnicolasbm

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 “nonessenti­al 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.

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