Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto pressed on Wednesday the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to quickly disburse its P75 billion unspent funds.
“Midnight of December 31 is the Cinderella hour for these funds. If they have not been obligated, their validity automatically expires on January 1,” Recto stressed in his statement.
The DSWD, he said, must “act like a Santa Claus on overdrive” and quickly disburse its remaining fund in its 2020 budget, giving priority to the victims of the three typhoons that have ravaged Luzon.
“That money, we’ve been told, is now with the DSWD. If it has been obligated, the next step is to disburse it with urgency,” Recto said.
Senators on Tuesday questioned the delay in the DSWD’s disbursement of its funds which has ballooned to over P83 billion, according to Senator Imee Marcos, sponsor of the agency’s proposed 2021 budget.
Of the unspent amount, P75 billion was from the DSWD’s 2020 budget, P6 billion was from its allocation for the social amelioration program under the two Bayanihan laws enacted to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and another P1.5 billion from its 2019 budget.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon described this practice as “almost criminal”, as millions of Filipinos are in need of assistance due to the health crisis.
On Wednesday, DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista said the P75 billion of unspent funds has already been allocated to various programs of the agency, assuring the public that this would be used for its intended purposes.
Bautista said that of the amount, P48.3 billion was allocated to the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps); P2.1 billion for the Supplementary Feeding Program for day-care children, P2.6 billion for the Sustainable Livelihood Program; and P3.9 billion for the Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens.
Recto likewise appealed to the DSWD to spend the unused P6 billion from the Bayanihan law to the beneficiaries of the social amelioration program.
“‘Yong P6 billion may appear as small in this era of trillion peso budgets, pero pwede mo nang ibili ng six million bags of rice na ang tig-25 kilos,” Recto said.