THE GOVERNMENT has released P376.57 billion for its coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) containment effort as of Aug. 10, according to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Tallying allotment releases, the DBM said pandemic-related spending rose by P1.7 billion from the P374.89 billion that had been spent at the end of June. In terms of notices of cash allocation, the authority the DBM issues to agencies to use the cash allocated to them, the total is P360.1 billion.

Implementing agencies of the government’s cash aid programs received most of the funds, led by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), which handled the P200-billion social amelioration program, and the Department of Finance (DoF), which oversaw the P50-billion wage subsidy program and funds given to local governments.

The DBM has released allotments to the two agencies worth P201 billion and P88 billion, respectively. The Departments of Health, Labor, Education and Agriculture also received  P49 billion, P12.6 billion, P11 billion, and P11.4 billion, respectively.

Other agencies that received funds for COVID-19 were the Departments of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), National Defense (DND), Foreign Affairs (DFA), Justice (DoJ), Trade and Industry (DTI), Science and Technology (DoST), Public Works and Highways (DPWH), as well as the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said Thursday said it is important for the government to “prudently” spend on its pandemic response and stimulus plan to conserve resources in case of a prolonged crisis.

“Because this is likely going to be a drawn-out series of battles, we should be judicious in our use of fiscal and financial resources. There is no knock-out punch for COVID-19 and its economic fallout. We are therefore conserving our fiscal stamina for a full, 12-round fight. Our capacity to fight can and will outlast this health challenge,” Mr. Dominguez said in a video address during the 29th North Luzon Area Business Conference of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).

He said given its strong fiscal position before the pandemic, the government has “sufficient means” to raise funds and ramp up spending.

“We cannot fight a pandemic with a weak economy; nor can we restore economic vigor without solving the public health crisis. We need a healthy people and a strong economy,” he said.

He said maintaining investment-grade credit ratings allows the government access to financing at lower rates and longer repayment periods.

As of Aug. 5, the foreign funding raised by the government has totaled $8.131 billion in the form of loans, bonds and grants.

“Even as the virus continues to circulate, we are setting the foundations for a strong recovery. Pragmatism guides us as we put together an effective bounce back plan that we can afford and can fully execute,” Mr. Dominguez added. — Beatrice M. Laforga