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Deeper budget cuts expected

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SOME departments may face deeper budget cuts, as the government looks for more funds for its efforts to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak and its economic fallout.

Budget Undersecretary Tina Rose Marie L. Canda said some agencies may have their budgets further reduced, after they identified more savings from departments this month.

“It’s possible because we will withdraw the offered savings once the submissions are complete,” Ms. Canda said.

Data from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) showed allotments for line departments were adjusted in April in order to augment the budget of agencies responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

Under Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, President Rodrigo R. Duterte can realign funds towards COVID-19-related efforts.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) suffered the biggest budget cut at P121.94 billion, bringing its allotment down to P458.95 billion from more than P580 billion originally.

This comes as the economic team is pushing for the “revival and acceleration of the ‘Build, Build, Build’ infrastructure modernization program,” in order to kickstart recovery after the lockdown.

The budget for the Education department was also slashed by P21.86 billion to P499.49 billion from P521.35 billion previously. The Commission on Higher Education’s budget was reduced by P14 billion, bringing down its budget to P32.88 billion from P46.78 billion, while the budget for state universities and colleges was cut by P7.64 billion to P66.08 billion.

The Agriculture department’s budget was lowered by P11.7 billion to P50.59 billion, while the Department of Transportation saw its budget trimmed by P8.82 billion to P90.58 billion.

The Department of National Defense’s budget was reduced by P6.72 billion to P185.03 billion, while the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s budget was cut by P6.19 billion to P3.67 billion. The budget for the Department of Trade and Industry was lowered by P4.05 billion to P16.9 billion, while that of the Department of the Interior and Local Government was clipped by P3.09 billion to P236.76 billion.

Allotments for state subsidies to government corporations were also shaved by P5.08 billion, bringing the total budget to P190.9 billion from the earlier programmed P195.99 billion.

DBM data showed the funds were redirected to agencies implementing COVID-19-related programs.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) received the biggest share at P165.23 billion, which nearly doubled its budget for the year to P329.04 billion. The DSWD is in charge of the social amelioration program for low-income households.

The Department of Finance saw its budget increased by P35.26 billion to P53.81 billion, while the Labor department’s budget was given an additional P1.48 billion to P18.9 billion.

The Department of Health’s budget got an additional P1.91 billion, bringing its total to P102.933 billion for this year.

DBM issued National Budget Circular No. 580 in late April saying that 35% of the budgets of state agencies will no longer be released to generate funds for emergency responses.

It also ordered the agencies to submit a report on the programs and activities that could be discontinued this year so funds can be redirected for other COVID-19-related expenses.

Ms. Canda said the DBM is currently consolidating the submissions made by line departments and will report the proposed savings to the President for consideration.

As of April, the Budget department has released 90.1% or P3.693 trillion out of this year’s P4.1-trillion spending plan, leaving P406.055 billion to be released for the rest of the year. — Beatrice M. Laforga





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