THE Palace said Monday that it released more than P132 billion so far to various agencies in order to boost the government’s capacity to contain the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

According to its third weekly report to Congress on how it is using its emergency funding during the public health crisis, the government said that as of April 9, it had released P132.323 billion of the P189 billion worth of funds so far realigned from the 2019 and 2020 National Budgets.

The P189 billion worth of realignments identified so far was reported last week in the second Palace report.

“The National Government is continuously augmenting its fiscal resources for the country’s COVID-19 response measures,” it said.

Under the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, the President was authorized to redirect budget funds toward the virus containment effort.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) received P100 billion of the funds released. The DSWD applied the emergency funding to its Social Amelioration Program, which provides cash subsidies to 18 million vulnerable households affected by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). The subsidies were for April.

More than P30 billion went into the Bayanihan Grant to Cities and Municipalities, which will boost local government units’ capacity to respond to the outbreak and the disruptions brought on by the quarantine.

The Department of Labor and Employment received P1.5 billion which will go towards helping workers who were displaced by the ECQ.

According to the report, P63 billion represented funds repurposed from the various agencies’ budgets to aid in the COVID-19 response of the government.

“From the period of 01 April to 08 April 2020, the LBP remitted to the BTr (Bureau of Treasury) cash balances from various government agencies amounting to a total of P63.60 billion,” it said.

LBP is state-owned Land Bank of the Philippines, in which many government offices maintain their deposit accounts.

In the report, the Department of Finance (DoF) said the Philippines has sufficient funds and potential borrowing capacity to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

“(T)he DoF, while it is not aware of any such recommendations from the International Monetary Fund, states it is confident that the Philippines has the financial capacity to address the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The report added that the Senate has proposed to increase deficit spending to 10% of Gross Domestic Product, a steep escalation from the 3% deficit level deemed prudent. In recent years, the government has sought to exceed the 3% level to support its infrastructure program. — Gillian M. Cortez