THE HOUSE committee on appropriations approved Tuesday P1.65 billion in supplemental funding to support the government’s response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) outbreak.

The funding package was passed upon the motion of Representative Ruwel Peter S. Gonzaga of Davao de Oro (formerly Compostela Valley).

His motion for approval also removed a provision setting a Dec. 31 deadline for spending, making the funds available “until fully spent.”

The panel consolidated House Bills 6166 and 6177 which originally sought to provide more than P2 billion to the Department of Health (DoH). The National Treasury, however, said that only P1.65 billion worth of excess funds was available for realignment.

“At present we don’t have the P2.04 billion excess income available. We have P1.65 billion in excess income, Mr. Chair. We have been coordinating with the Department of Finance to expedite the remittance of various dividends because usually the source of excess revenue are dividends from our government operations,” Deputy Treasurer Sharon P. Almanza testified.

The DoH said it needs P3.1 billion to cover the costs of equipment to deal with Covid-19.

“We need P2.35 billion as requested for PPE (personal protective equipment)… for the Bureau of Quarantine, we need P933 million for MOOE (maintenance and other operating expenses). And 40,000 test kits for RITM (the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine), P139 million. A total of P3.1 billion,” Health Undersecretary Roger P. Tong-an said.

Mr. Tong-an said the DoH can also tap funding from other government agencies and dip into its own savings.

“We have some possible funding that we’ll tap from PAGCOR (the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.) of P2 billion, then from the DoH savings of P539 million and PCSO (Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office) intends to give P420 million… plus we have QRF (quick response fund) of P81 million that… we can use for that matter so a total of P4.6 billion (in) possible funding,” he said.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said the department can also use the P13-billion contingency fund “for any deficiency that DoH might encounter.”

“For FY 2020 under the General Appropriations Act, the contingent fund has an amount of P13 billion. P8 billion is for MOOE and P5 billion is for capital outlays. And this fund is meant to cover new and urgent projects of national government agencies and this is one of the appropriations or the items that the DBM has identified that can be a source and funds for any deficiency that DoH might encounter,” Budget Undersecretary Janet B. Abuel said. — Genshen L. Espedido