THE PALACE on Monday said portions of the calamity fund under the 2020 national budget were unused to give the country reserves to respond to future disasters.

“Siyempre po hindi gagastusin lahat dahil kinakailangang mag-save ng pondo para sa darating na (Of course not all of it will be used because we need to have reserves for a future) calamity,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque Jr. told a televised news briefing on Monday.

“Huwag po kayong mag-alala, magagastos po lahat iyan (Don’t worry, that will all be spent),” he added.

Data from the Budget department showed that a total of P25.14 billion in calamity funds under the 2020 and 2021 national budgets remain unutilized as of end-March.

Mr. Roque, citing the department’s policy, said funds for calamities and natural disasters are only disbursed “when the need arises.”

He explained that such funds are released when there is a request filed “or in response to a particular disaster or natural calamity.”

In a tweet on Sunday, former Socioeconomic Planning secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said the government’s lack of sense of urgency “has clearly shone in responding to and managing the pandemic.”

He said the health system hardly improved, adding that the country’s pandemic response spending is the lowest in Southeast Asia.

Mr. Roque defended that those in the administration could not be said to lack a sense of urgency because everyone wants “to spare as many of our family and friends from this vicious virus.” — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza