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DBM cool to 2nd extension of Bayanihan 2

AGENCIES may lose their sense of urgency in implementing programs under Bayanihan 2 if the validity of its appropriations is once again extended, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said.

The budget department made the remark on Monday amid calls for Congress to hold a special session and extend Bayanihan 2, which is currently set to expire on June 30.

Forty-eight civil-society groups earlier asked President Duterte and Congress leaders to convene a special session to extend Bayanihan 2.

As of May 31, P18.4 billion in Bayanihan 2 appropriations have yet to be obligated by agencies, according to DBM.  Unobligated funds will revert to the Bureau of the Treasury after Bayanihan 2 expires.

“For the extension of the validity of Bayanihan 2 appropriations, we will defer to the wisdom of the legislature on the matter. However, may we note that the extension may somehow negate the urgency of agencies/departments to fast-track the implementation of programs under Bayanihan 2,” Budget Assistant Secretary and spokesman Rolando U. Toledo told the BusinessMirror in a message.

Still, Toledo said this can be addressed through the oversight authority of Congress over departments/agencies regarding implementation of authorized programs, activities and projects.

Apart from this, he added the extension will also “not have any additional fiscal impact on the economy since it will not add any new spending program.”

Should the government decide to extend the validity of funds under Bayanihan 2, this would already be the second time for them to do so. Bayanihan 2 was originally supposed to expire on December 19 last year but this was later on extended until June 30 this year after lawmakers observed slow disbursement of funds.

Budget Secretary Wendel E. Avisado said they also leave it up to President Duterte to decide on whether to call Congress to a special session to extend Bayanihan 2.

“Whatever the President tells us. We do not preempt him,” Avisado said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier said he is open to either option—President Duterte asking Congress to hold a special session, or having the DBM and Executive department agencies simply move on the funds, as suggested by Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon.

Avisado: Our job is done

However, Avisado told the BusinessMirror that they have already done their part in releasing all the funds under Bayanihan 2.

“Our job is done. We have released all the funds. From then on, it’s the Departments’ responsibility to whom we have released the funds to utilize them within the time frame set by the law,” he said.

He added any initiative for realignment or modification must also originate from the concerned departments but still within the timeframe set under the law particularly on disbursement.

In terms of the overall Covid response-related releases, the budget department has earlier reported that P173.3 billion remains unspent as of end-May.

Of the total P660.51-billion Covid response-related releases by DBM, P542.64 billion has been obligated but only P487.19 billion has been disbursed.

Budget Assistant Secretary Kim Robert de Leon told senators last week that the unspent funds among the Covid-19 releases include those for programs, activities and projects that are “not yet due and demandable.”

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