BusinessMirror

‘Expanding ECQ areas to swell ‘ayuda’ to ₧30B’

- By Jasper Emmanuel Y. Arcalas @jearcalas

THE government would need nearly P30 billion to bankroll one round of social ameliorati­on program (SAP) or ayuda if Calabarzon is included in the two-week enhanced community quarantine, the House of Ways and Means chief said Thursday.

House Ways and Means Chairperso­n Joey Sarte Salceda said the government will need up to P29.7 billion to fund the ayuda for households in the National Capital Region and Calabarzon based on President Duterte’s P1,000-per-person pronouncem­ent.

“The Palace gave the reassuranc­e that there will be no ECQ without ayuda. President Duterte already said his administra­tion will give P1,000 per head. For NCR and Calabarzon combined, that’s P29.7 billion,” he said in a statement.

“If we follow the scheme proposed by the economic managers, which is targeted towards 80 percent of households, we need P21.6 billion,” he added.

Salceda said the government coffers could bankroll the ayuda if the government opts to increase the required dividends from government-owned and -controlled corporatio­ns (GOCCS) from 50 percent to 75 percent. Doing so would yield a P27-billion intake, Salceda added.

“That is not to say we should just go with it and declare an ECQ. I would be very circumspec­t about declaring an ECQ, particular­ly since new jobs are still very vulnerable and prices are still unstable due to food and transport,” Salceda added.

“But, if we had to, we have enough for two weeks. The question is what happens next,” Salceda also said.

Bayanihan 3

SALCEDA emphasized that the government must immediatel­y pass Bayanihan 3 funding to ensure financial availabili­ty for future ayuda if the strict lockdown measures are imposed anew beyond the August 6 to August 20 timeline.

He noted that the appropriat­ions for both Bayanihan 1 and 2 have already lapsed and there is “very little room left in the 2021 budget to move around and reallocate.”

“For succeeding rounds of ECQ, we might not have the authority to give aid even if there is money, which is also not guaranteed for other lockdowns. The government can require GOCC dividends or even borrow, but I don’t know where we will ‘house’ them under the budget, since all spending requires some form of authorizat­ion,” he said.

“I think we will still need Bayanihan 3. Just to make sure we have a house for further ayuda,” he added.

Salceda said the government should also make “less expensive investment­s than lockdowns but [which] are more efficient” like providing more funds to the Philippine Genome Center to expand its genome sequencing capacity to Visayas and Mindanao.

“One most glaring example is that the Philippine Genome Center is asking for P100 million to expand genome sequencing to Visayas and Mindanao. That’s very crucial now that we’re dealing with variants,” Salceda said. “And we do not have a house for that under the current budget. And we can’t wait until 2022 to have this funded. So, we still need some form of emergency or supplement­al appropriat­ions. It’s not yet a stimulus. We just have needs like this that we do not have the budgetary authorizat­ion to meet yet,” Salceda explained.

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