DOTr proposes to reallocate funds for certain projects to aid COVID-19 response

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 8) — The Department of Transportation says it can free up some funds allocated for big-ticket infrastructure projects to ​aid the government's response to the raging coronavirus pandemic.

The agency said on Tuesday it submitted to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) a list of projects where budget allotments may be reduced, among them the MRT rehabilitation project, to free up ₱11.1 billion of public funds that can be used for initiatives to mitigate the health crisis.

These projects being considered for budget cuts include the construction of the North-South Commuter Railway system and the Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernization project. Some airport projects, including the Iloilo airport, New Siargao airport, Bukidnon airport and General Santos airport are also on the list.

The list includes both locally funded projects and foreign-assisted projects, but specified that only the government's share would be diverted to state funds.

Transportation Assistant Secretary Goddess Hope Libiran told CNN Philippines that the list is merely their "offer," but the final decision will come from DBM.

In a statement on Wednesday morning, DOTr clarified that these projects will not be discontinued. Instead, some of the funds allotted for these construction projects will be diverted to the government's COVID-19 response.

"In the specific case of the MRT-3 rehab, what we did was determine that we can set aside about ₱1.1 billion out of its ₱17 billion total project cost, which will form part of the ₱11.1 billion funding that we have collated from various projects in our aviation, maritime, railways and road sectors," DOTr said.

It added that the one-month payment to the contractor of the PNR Clark railway line will also be transferred as construction works stopped due to the Luzon-wide quarantine.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a briefing on Tuesday that Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez were told to identify which projects can be dropped to free up public funds.

Meanwhile, Finance Assistant Secretary Tony Lambino said the economic team has diverted some ₱205 billion from the 2019 and 2020 national budgets to support the state's COVID-19 response.

READ: Gov't readies ₱600-B for COVID-19 response, but more than half funded with loans

President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday evening that the government will need additional funds to aid poor families during the crisis, but expressed concern over where these can be sourced.

In response, several attached agencies of the Department of Transportation gave an additional ₱7.1 billion in dividends to the Bureau of the Treasury on Tuesday.

This is on top of the more than ₱10 billion in dividends, which were remitted in advance by the DOTr in March 2020.

In total, the Transportation Department has remitted in advance the sum of ₱17.1 billion in dividends to the Treasury.