Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Sunday said the proposed P200-billion supplemental budget to address the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis is only a “ballpark figure” that was mentioned during the meeting of the executive branch with officials from the Senate and the House of Representatives last Saturday.
Sotto clarified that the 16.5 million families who will be covered by the projected P200-billion supplemental budget to respond to COVID-19 situation are the ones who are actually needing government assistance.
Sotto was reacting to Senator Panfilo Lacson’s statement that the P200-billion budget may not be enough to cover all families in the country affected by the public health emergency.
In fact, he said the bill that Congress will pass allowing President Rodrigo Duterte to realign funds to help address the COVID-19 situation does not state a specific amount.
“If we are to include the projection of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) sa mga maaaring pagkukunan, kasi doon lalabas yung within two months kung magbibigay sila ng 30 percent ng minimum wage nung 16.5 million families, lumalabas na sa computation nila, mga P234 billion in two months,” explained Sotto.
“That’s the projection of the DBM, it’s not in the bill. It was only mentioned so that the P200 billion which will be used surfaced. It can be lower, or it can be higher,” he added.
At present, he said the Philippines has 22 million families, of which 16.5 million are considered poor while the remaining 5.5 million have the capacity to sustain themselves during the health situation.
“From 22 million families, 5.5 million do not need help. Those with jobs, they have sources if we are talking about a month or two months,” he said.
“Yung 16.5 million families yun ang isang kahig, isang tuka. Yun ang concentration,” he added.
However, Sotto assured the public that the 5.5 million families will not be left for their own.
Sotto also said that all local government units in the country will likewise be covered by the proposed amount, considering that they are also at risk of losing resources amid the situation.
A lockdown to stem the spread of COVID-19 has slowed down Metro Manila’s food supply from agricultural producers all over Luzon, with checkpoints set up to support the social-distancing measures imposed by the government.
The daily income of wage earners and monthly salaries of the middle-class have been disrupted by the lockdown, with the possibility of lay-offs looming large in the export, travel and tourism sectors most affected by the global health crisis.
Senator Grace Poe aired support to the government’s move to provide more funds to combat and mitigate the impact of COVID-19.
“We have to ensure that adequate funds are earmarked for social assistance. These funds need to reach the poorest of the poor, not only in Luzon, but all over the country,” she said.
She also underscored the need to support frontline healthcare workers, who are now dealing with the impact of the disease.
“We should also extend assistance to affected entrepreneurs and businesses which are bearing the weight of the inactivity of the economy./Stacy Ang