DBM says more than ₱300 billion is allocated for COVID-19 response under proposed 2021 budget

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 4) — The Department of Budget and Management said more than ₱300 billion has been allocated for the government’s COVID-19 response.

Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said during the budget deliberation of the House of Representatives Committee on appropriations that they are “proposing a health budget of ₱212.39 billion for next year to fund COVID-19 response, strategies, and programs that are consistent with the implementation of the Universal Healthcare Act.”

This will be allocated for the government’s insurance program, medical assistance to Indigent patients, as well as procurement of more than 2 million personal protective equipment, GeneXpert machines and cartridges, and COVID-19 vaccine, to mention some.

Another ₱90 billion is allotted to various departments for their COVID-19 response programs, Avisado said. This includes the Department of Health, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Health, and the Department of Public Works and Highways.

The proposed ₱4.506 trillion budget for 2021 was approved by President Rodrigo Duterte early-August. This is higher than the 2020 budget at P4.1 trillion, and will focus on projects that will boost the government’s response versus the health crisis.

Duterte was given special powers to reallocate portions of the 2020 budget for COVID-19 response through the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, or Bayanihan 1. Its second version was already ratified by both houses, and is just awaiting the signature of the President.

Some 1.7 million jobs created next year

Meanwhile, acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua told lawmakers that with their recovery program, which includes the 2021 proposed budget, there will be 1.7 million jobs to be created next year.

NEDA’s “phased and adaptive” recovery program has three phases that includes emergency stage, recovery stage, and the resiliency stage.

Emergency stage, which used the Bayanihan 1, addressed issues like subsidy to the poor and low income Filipinos, support to small businesses, support to key sectors like agriculture, and improvement of the country’s healthcare system.

Key features of the recovery stage, which will be supported by the Bayanihan 2 along with certain measures like Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act, include resumption of priority infrastructure projects, improved implementation of programs under Bayanihan 1, and targeted tax incentives, among others.

For the resiliency stage that will be complemented by the 2021 budget, the government targets to formulate structural reforms to create opportunities under the new normal, and to implement other programs to help in the recovery of Filipinos.

The creation of jobs will also be supported by higher spending on infrastructure projects, Chua said.

For next year, allocated budget for the government’s Build, Build, Build program is up ₱1.121 trillion from ₱785 billion in 2020, and Avisado said these projects will generate 140,000 up to 200,000 jobs.

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported on Thursday that some 4.6 million Filipinos were out of work in July, with a 10 percent unemployment rate among Filipinos. This lower than 17.7 percent recorded in April this year, but still higher than 5.4 percent in the same period last year.

Chua said during the hearing that community restrictions will have a significant impact on employment for the rest of the year. He said they observed that 7.5 million jobs were brought back as the country transitioned to less strict community restrictions between April and July.