DOF urged to explain P1.86-trillion borrowings

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House committee on Public Accounts chairman and Anakalusugan partylist Rep. Mike Defensor has urged the Department of Finance (DOF) to explain in detail the P1.86-trillion in loans the government obtained from January to July this year.

“People are asking questions about the borrowings, particularly where the money was used and why did we have to borrow at the time each loan was incurred. For the sake of transparency, the DOF should account for the debt for the first seven months,” said Defensor.

He said he and many people understand that the government has to borrow from foreign and domestic lenders to augment funds in the fight against Covid-19.

“But for the understanding of the greater public, the DOF, together with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), has to explain to clear up issues. For instance, how much of the P1.86 trillion went to Covid-19 response measures, how much for infrastructure, how much for debt repayment, and how much for salaries, if any,” he added.

Defensor noted that last week, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado reported that as of Aug. 28, the DBM had released a total of P389 billion for Covid-19 response.

According Avisado, of the amount disbursed, P266.53 billion came from discontinued projects, activities and programs (PAPs), in the 2019 and 2020 budgets, P102.06 from special purpose funds and P20.48 from regular agency appropriations.

Of the P389 billion, P211 billion was used for the two waves of financial assistance to at least 18 million low-income families amounting to P5,000-P8,000 under Bayanihan 1 or the We Heal as One Law.

At the same time, Defensor urged the DBM to specify what projects, activities and programs have been scrapped so the people would not wait for these.

“They can post these in their website, indicating the particular PAP, its funding and location. If residents feel strongly that a discontinued PAP is still needed in their community, they could push for its funding in future budgets by communicating to lawmakers, their local officials and even directly to the DBM,” he said.

He also asked the DBM to tell Congress and the public how much the government saved from continuing lockdowns since March, which are the world’s longest quarantine restrictions.

He said work-from-home instructions for most government workers should have meant savings in the billions in terms of use of electricity, water, telephone, internet, office supplies, vehicles, fuel, and other maintenance and operating expenses (MOOE).

He said the P4.1-trillion national budget for this year allocates a total of P1.6 trillion for MOOE.

Defensor earlier proposed that because of long lockdowns, the MOOE allocation be cut by at least 20 percent or P320 billion, and the money be used to augment Covid-19 response funds.

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