Press Release
April 7, 2020

'Tough times call for tough decisions'
Drilon says gov't may need to review spending program for 2020

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday said that the government should be prepared to sacrifice some projects, even flagship infrastructure projects, in order to generate funds for COVID-19 response activities, as he urged for greater government intervention to ease the impact of the pandemic among Filipinos.

"Tough times call for tough decisions. We are now seeing the far-reaching effects of the COVID-19. It is not only the poorest that are affected but also the middle class, as well as small business owners. Sadly, the government's wallet is depleting as the rest of the Filipino people," Drilon said.

"Kung ang gobyerno hirap maghanap ng pera sa panahon ngayon, paano pa kaya ang ordinaryong Pilipino, ang mga nawalan ng trabaho, ang maliliit na mamumuhunan na nawalan ng negosyo," Drilonstressed.

Drilon said that the lack of sufficient funds hinder the government from responding to the crisis, as he noted that there are items in the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act that remain unfunded.

"It is a question of government fiscal position. Does the government have enough money to combat COVID-19?" he reiterated.

"Perhaps our financial managers would be able to free up some funds that would not be utilized for the intended purpose and realign it to the amelioration programs," he said.

Drilon noted that under the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highway, there are about P30.17 billion for bridge construction, P52.8 billion for asset preservation program (road construction), P113.39 billion for network development program (road widening, diversion), and P90.12 billion for flood management program.

Saying that these projects will be impossible to be fully implemented within the year, Drilon said the government should realign some fundings to aid the affected sectors, pointing out that with the passage the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, the government can free up more resources, realign and reprogram the same to appropriate responses against the crisis.

"The government should reach out to all affected sectors. If we do not roll out a parallel assistance, our economy will surely collapse," said Drilon.

"Families classified as middle class today are not earning any income. Likewise, small business owners risk losing their jobs and livelihood due to the lockdown. Their needs may be different but all of them need help," he stressed.

The minority leader said he supports a two-week extension of the Luzon-wide lockdown, but stressed "that the government should be prepared to assist all Filipinos in distress during this crisis and ensure food supply and movement of essential goods and services during the lockdown."

Earlier, the minority chief raised concerns that the lack of sufficient funds will undermine government interventions to fight COVID-19.

Due to the pandemic and the lockdown, Drilon said revenue collections are greatly affected and government disbursements, which account for roughly 20 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, are expected to slow down.

"Our tight fiscal space seriously affects the government's capabilty to address COVID-19," he said, adding that the situation makes the government dependent on loan and aid to address the pandemic, hence the slow responses..

Drilon said that the country's present fiscal space is further crippled by the COVID-19, making things more difficult for the government to respond to the crisis.

Drilon noted that the lack of cash is evident, "according to the President's second report, out of the Php200 Billion Emergency Subsidy Program, only PhP100 Billion has been released. The balance shall be released 'as soon as the Bureau of Treasury (BTr) releases the certification of availability of cash'. This is indeed very worrisome."

In a televised speech Monday night, the President expressed concerns that the government may not have enough money to combat COVID-19.

"I'm calling on the secretary of finance to generate (funds). Magnakaw ka, manghiram ka, wala akong pakialam. Produce mo 'yung pera. Hindi ko alam kung kailan ako makahatid ng pagkain sa lahat. Hindi ko alam kung saan ako magkuha ng ng pera. Hindi ko alam kung ano ang ipagbili ko kung may magbibili," the President said.

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