FINANCE Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said the government already has P45 billion in place in next year’s budget for the purchase of additional Covid-19 vaccines.
Dominguez assured President Duterte late Saturday night that the government has the money to secure Covid-19 vaccines not only for this year but also for next year.
The finance official said that for 2021 they expect to receive a total of 65 million doses from July 1 to September and around 55 million doses by the end of the third quarter.
The government also expects the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) Facility to deliver a maximum of 49 million doses this semester to complete the 171 million doses expected to be received by the country for 2021.
“Those 171 million is more than enough to vaccinate the entire adult population of the Philippines and the money is already available for that, okay. So there is no problem with the money for this year. Now, for next year, we will just have—we just had a meeting with [Budget] Secretary [Wendel] Avisado and [Health] Secretary [Francisco] Duque yesterday [Friday], and we noted that we have in the budget for next year already 45 billion pesos for additional vaccinations,” Dominguez said at Duterte’s televised meeting with selected Cabinet officials and members of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).
Dominguez gave the assurance on fund availability and timely delivery of vaccines in response to the recommendation of medical experts for the government to accelerate the vaccination program to protect Filipinos from the more virulent Delta variant.
However, Dominguez said the government has yet to determine whether the money will be used for booster shots or another set of vaccinations.
“Whatever it is, please tell us so that we can—we can properly allocate these funds,” Dominguez said.
The DOF chief expressed confidence that the government can finance its Covid-19 response efforts even beyond 2022, citing the administration’s fiscal prudence.
“Mr. President, I don’t think we’re good only until six months. I think we are good beyond 2022. So it’s not going to be easy but because of the moves that you have made from 2016 to 2019, we are ready to handle this problem financially. And that is due to you, Mr. President,” Dominguez said.
Dominguez earlier said the government needs an additional P75 billion to vaccinate adolescents aged 12 to 17 and to acquire Covid-19 vaccine booster shots for both adults and adolescents.
The finance chief also earlier estimated that an additional expenditure of about P20 billion is needed to vaccinate approximately 15 million children aged 12 to 17. Apart from this, acquiring booster shots for next year for about 85 million teenagers and adults will cost the government about P55 billion, he said.
Budget officials did not immediately respond to queries on the source of P45 billion in funds in the 2022 budget, but Dominguez earlier said the national government would most likely “need to reallocate funds” for it to finance these additional vaccination expenses while maintaining an acceptable fiscal deficit.
President Duterte earlier signed Administrative Order (AO) 41 ordering agencies under the Executive branch to identify “savings” from their released appropriations under the 2020 national budget.
In the same meeting, Dominguez also said unspent funds under Bayanihan 2 of about P6 billion accounts for only a fraction of the P665.72 billion released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for the Covid-19 response.
In the meantime, they are urging departments to spend the remaining funds.
“Now, the Department of Budget [and Management] and ourselves, are going to each department to see where the 6 billion is. But, Mr. President, this is one percent problem. In relation to what we have released of P660 billion, this is one percent, okay, and we are sure that it will be released. But in the meantime, we are asking each department to push to really spend the money,” Dominguez said.
The validity of appropriations under Bayanihan 2 expired on June 30. After that time, unobligated funds shall be reverted to the Bureau of the Treasury.
The DBM earlier reported an unobligated amount of P6.487 billion of the total P141.59 billion released allotment for special appropriations under Bayanihan 2 as of June 25.
The figures in the Bayanihan 2 status utilization report were highly dependent on the submission of agencies. Despite appeals from various groups, President Duterte did not call Congress to a special session to extend the validity of appropriations under Bayanihan 2.