THE Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released P6.197 billion worth of financial aid to all 81 provinces to shore up their funding in the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) containment effort, with provinces in Regions IV-A and III receiving the largest amounts overall.

Local Budget Circular No. 126 dated April 13 sets guidelines on the release of P6.197-billion Bayanihan Grant to Provinces (BGP), a one-time financial package equivalent to half a month’s internal revenue allotment (IRA) for 2020.

IRAs are the share of local governments of national-government revenue.

The DBM said the BGP can only be used during the six-month State of Calamity, which was declared on March 16. Meanwhile, all unutilized funds after the state of calamity is lifted will have to be remitted back to the Treasury, it added.

The largest allocation was P734.508 million for provinces in Region IV-A or the CALABARZON region, so called because it comprises the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas and Quezon. This was followed by P653.695 million for the provinces of Region III or Central Luzon, P469.893 million for those of Region VI or Western Visayas and P421.961 million for those of Region V or the Bicol Region.

The other grants were P379.503 million for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM); P378.752 million for Region VIII or the Eastern Visayas; P375.914 million for Region VII or the Central Visayas; P369.293 million for Region II or the Cagayan Valley; P337.487 million for Region I or the Ilocos Region; P332.292 million for Region IV-B or MIMAROPA, so called because it comprises the provinces of Mindoro, Masbate, Romblon and Palawan; P330.651 million for Region X or Northern Mindanao; P324.734 million for Region XII or SOCCSKARGEN, so called because its components are South Cotabato, Cotabato Province, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City; P309.096 million for Region XI or the Davao Region, P283.049 million for Region XII or the Caraga region of northeastern

Mindanao; P260.697 million for the Cordillera Administrative Region; and P235.756 million for Region IX of the Zamboanga Peninsula.

“The BGP shall be released to all provinces to be used as augmentation to the funding requirements for the operation of provincial, district, and other local hospitals operated by the provincial government, and maintenance of duly established provincial checkpoints related to COVID-19, in support to the on-going efforts of the Government to respond to the crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the circular, published late Tuesday.

DBM said the funds can only be used to pay for personal protective equipment; medical equipment, reagents and testing kits; medicines and vitamins; other hospital equipment and supplies; disinfectants, sprayers and other disinfecting supplies and equipment; food, transportation and accommodation expenses for health workers and other personnel of public hospitals; construction, repair or rental of additional establishments to accommodate COVID-19 patients or those for monitoring; training of personnel and other COVID-19-related expenses of the local government and the hospitals it operates.

The funds can also be used to pay for the expenses associated with maintaining checkpoints, including food, medicine, protective gear and disinfecting supplies.

The DBM ruled out the use of the funds for cash assistance programs; personal services expenditures such as salaries; administrative and traveling expenses; registration fees for training, seminars and conferences; furniture, fixtures, equipment or appliances for administrative offices, and motor vehicles, including ambulances.

Earlier, the DBM released a P30.8-billion Bayanihan Grant for cities and municipalities to boost their capacity in responding to the public health crisis. The grant was equivalent to a month’s worth of 2020 IRA and can only be used for COVID-19-related expenses. — Beatrice M. Laforga