THE House of Representatives was ready to augment government funds to prevent the spread of a novel coronavirus strain that has killed hundreds in China, Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano said.

All programs under the P4.1-trillion national budget are priorities and can be augmented, he told reporters on Wednesday.

“Health is a priority, housing is a priority, education is a priority, the ‘Build, Build, Build’ program is a priority, so it is unavoidable that some may lack funds,” Mr. Cayetano said. “So long as it is part of the budget, it can be augmented,” he added.

The House Speaker decried the hesitation of some government officials to use their funds at the start of the year, fearing these might be exhausted.

He recalled telling state officials on Monday: “Don’t give us that mentality. Use your funds as needed.”

Mr. Cayetano said agencies involved in containing the spread of the new coronavirus strain should start using their funds since these “can be augmented.”

There is also a contingent fund worth P13 billion under the Office of the President, he said.

The lawmaker said the House could pass an additional budget “anytime” and was just awaiting the required certificate of availability from the Bureau of the Treasury. — Genshen L. Espedido