MANILA - The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has committed to "immediately" release billions of funds to agencies after senators flagged the executive branch's failure to disburse funds under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2), according to a senator Tuesday.
Several Cabinet secretaries who attended budget hearings in the Senate earlier said that at least P34 billion in COVID-19 aid funds have yet to be given to the agriculture, labor and tourism sectors two months before the Bayanihan 2 expires.
Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado "committed that DBM and the implementing agencies concerned are acting on the matter and making sure that necessary resources indicated in the law are released immediately," Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, the former longtime aide of President Rodrigo Duterte, said in a statement.
"According to Secretary Avisado, he has marching orders to the DBM to act on all budget requests within 24 hours upon receipt of his office if all the requirements are complete," Go said.
The Bayanihan 2 is the Philippines' second COVID-19 aid package which authorizes the government to spend P140 billion to help sectors affected by the pandemic.
The law also earmarks P25-billion in standby funds should the government need more money to finance COVID-19-related projects.
"Minadali ng Senado na maipasa ito…kaya walang dahilan para maipit ang pondo," Go said.
(The Senate rushed to pass this... so there is no reason to delay the release of funds.)
The Bayanihan 2 - along with the executive branch's authority to spend the P165 billion funding in the law - will expire on December 19 when Congress adjourns for a month-long break for the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto earlier said Congress should consider extending the validity of Bayanihan 2 after the months-long delay in its implementation.