Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto is seeking an  extension of the availability of funds under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2 until March next year.

recto 1 - Recto seeks extension of Bayanihan 2 funds until March 2021
Senate Ralph Recto (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Recto recently filed Senate Bill No. 1909 seeking to extend the validity of the appropriations in  Republic Act No. 11494, following delays in the government’s release of funds for COVID-19 response and recovery programs.

In the bill, the Senate leader cited the Nov. 3 report of the Executive department to Congress showing “disappointing delays in the release of funds for the delivery of programs and projects meant to provide effective response and recovery interventions for COVID-19.”

“This delay is unexpected because the Bayanihan 2 was certified as an urgent measure by the President,” Recto lamented.

As of Oct. 29, some P76 billion out of the total P140 billion appropriated under Bayanihan 2 Act was released by the Department of Budget and Management  to the implementing agencies.

“This leaves a balance of P64 billion or about 46 percent still to be released before the appropriation expires on Dec. 19, 2020,” Recto said in the bill.

A newspaper report Tuesday quoted the DBM as saying that releases under the Bayanihan 2 have so far reached P80.57 billion, excluding the amounts charged from the realignments from the agencies’ budgets under the 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA).

“It appears that the agency’s absorptive capacity cannot cope with the urgency of stopping the spread of the virus and instituting measures to avert the economic downturn as a result of the lockdowns,” Recto said.

“Hence, the government needs to extend the validity of appropriations and allotments for Bayanihan 2 in order to continue the forward momentum of our battle against the COVID-19 pandemic and avert the collapse of the economy,” he added.

Under the bill, appropriations under Bayanihan 2 shall be extended until the next adjournment of the 18th Congress on March 27, 2021.

This covers funds intended for national government agencies, local government units and government financial institutions, including those for health intervention, social amelioration, employment protection, support to affected business and sectors, and investments for the new normal, among others.

As for the P25-billion standby fund provided for by the Bayanihan 2, releases shall be extended only until Dec. 31, 2020.

Selected appropriations under the 2020 GAA for programs, activities, and projects that have been reprogrammed, reallocated, and realigned for COVID-19 mitigation shall also extended for the same period.

The bill would also extend until the March 27, 2021 the obligation of the allotments released by the government for COVID-19 response.

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