‘Good as funded’: Lacson confident gov’t can source over ₱70 billion for COVID-19 vaccine purchase

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 14)— Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson on Monday expressed confidence the government can raise the over ₱72 billion budget allocated for COVID-19 vaccine purchase for next year, despite concerns that majority are still unprogrammed funds.

Speaking to CNN Philippines, Lacson said the funds can be “readily made available” by the Budget Department, citing enough money in the national treasury after months-worth of both domestic and foreign borrowings.

“I’m confident that DBM will be able to come up with the ₱72 billion if needed,” Lacson said in an interview with The Source. “Before the pandemic struck, our national debt stood at ₱7.8 trillion. We’re now at ₱10.4 trillion. By simple computation, we have already borrowed almost ₱3 trillion… Easily, ₱72 billion can be taken cared of by the borrowings.”

“Since the pandemic, ‘yung expenditures na na-incur natin, nasa mga ₱600+ billion yata, so kayang kunin doon sa borrowings natin. So it is as good as funded,” he further explained.

[Translation: Since the pandemic, our expenditures stood at around P600 plus billion, so we can still get from the borrowings. So it as good as funded.]

The total COVID-19 vaccine budget for 2021 as approved by the bicameral conference committee last week stands at ₱72.5 billion. Of this value, ₱70 billion would come from unprogrammed allocations, which will only be available if the country exceeds its revenue collections or through approved loans.

The lack of a concrete source raised concerns from some officials, including Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who likened the earmarked vaccine budget to an “unfunded check.”

The country’s debt shot past ₱10 trillion as of October, with additional loans secured amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to the Bureau of the Treasury’s latest report.