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Duterte orders gov’t agencies to identify savings

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has directed all agencies under the Executive department to identify savings from their 2020 budgets.

In Administrative Order No. 41, the President ordered agencies to identify portions or balances of their released appropriations under the 2020 General Appropriations Act “that may be declared as savings.”

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) shall receive the reports of agencies on their compliance with the order within 15 days. The DBM shall then recommend to the President the amount that can be declared as savings, budget items that need to be augmented, and excess funds that can be used to provide cash aid for low-income families.

“The impact of the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic and the increasing cases of COVID-19 infection call for intensified government-wide response and recovery measures, including various forms of socioeconomic relief and assistance to those affected by the imposition of stricter levels of community quarantine,” Mr. Duterte said.

Savings are defined as portions or balances of any released appropriations that have not been obligated “as a result of the completion, discontinuance, or abandonment of a program, activity, or project.”

Savings also include funds that have not been obligated “as a result of the implementation of measures resulting in improved systems and efficiencies, enabling the agency to meet and deliver its goals at a lesser cost.”

To recall, the validity of the 2020 national budget was extended until Dec. 31, 2021 under Republic Act. No. 11520.

Lawmakers have proposed additional assistance programs for vulnerable sectors, but has received a lukewarm response from the Palace.

At least three committees at the House of Representatives have approved the proposed Bayanihan to Arise as One Act or Bayanihan III, which sets aside about P405.6 billion to assist various sectors affected by the pandemic.

Marikina Representative Stella Luz A. Quimbo, one of the bill’s proponents, said the measure could be funded by savings from the 2020 and 2021 national budgets as well as the excess capital and more dividends from government-owned and -controlled corporations. She also urged the government to implement austerity measures in order to afford the stimulus measure.

Presidential Spokesperson Herminio “Harry” L. Roque, Jr. had said the government needs to allow previous economic packages to run their course first before entertaining the possibility of a multibillion stimulus package. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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