DBM releases P30.8B to cities, municipalities for COVID-19 fight

Robie de Guzman   •   April 13, 2020   •   655

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Monday said it has released P30.8 billion to boost the capacity of cities and municipalities in their fight against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In a statement, the DBM said the Bayanihan Grant to Cities and Municipalities is a one-time financial assistance equivalent to a one-month 2020 Internal Revenue Allotment.

As provided for in Local Budget Circular No. 125 dated April 7, 2020, the grant should be “exclusively used” for the following COVID-19-related programs and expenses subject to existing procurement, budgeting, accounting, and auditing rules and regulations:

  • Procurement of personal protective equipment;
  • Procurement of equipment, reagents, and kits for COVID-19 testing;
  • Procurement of medicines and vitamins;
  • Procurement of hospital equipment and supplies;
  • Procurement of disinfectants, sprayers, disinfection tents and other disinfecting supplies and misting equipment;
  • Food, transportation (including fuel), and accommodation expenses of medical personnel and other LGU personnel directly involved in the implementation of
  • COVID-19-related programs, projects, and activities (PPAs);
  • Food assistance and other relief goods for affected households;
  • Expenses for the construction/repair/lease/rental of additional space/building to accommodate COVID-19 patients and persons under monitoring/investigation;
  • Expenses for the operation of stand-alone/mobile testing laboratory;
  • Expenses for the purchase/rental of tents for temporary shelters of the homeless;
  • Expenses for training of personnel in the conduct of COVID-19 testing and other related trainings; and
  • Other necessary COVID-19-related PPAs and expenses.

On the other hand, the department said that the following expenses are not covered by the grant:

  • Any form of financial/cash assistance;
  • Personal Services expenditures, such as salaries, wages, overtime pay and other personnel benefits;
  • Administrative expenses, such as supplies, meetings, communication, water and electricity, petroleum products, other general services, and the like;
  • Traveling expenses, whether domestic or foreign;
  • Registration or participation fees in training, seminars, conferences or conventions;
  • Purchase of administrative office’ furniture, fixtures, equipment or appliances;
  • Purchase, maintenance or repair of motor vehicles; and
  • Other PPAs and expenses not related to COVID-19.

“The released amount for the Bayanihan grant shall be used by the recipient cities and municipalities for the duration of the State of Calamity as declared by the President by virtue of Proclamation No. 929 dated 16 March 2020,” the DBM said.

Unutilized funds after the lifting of the State of Calamity shall be reverted to the National Treasury by the recipient cities and municipalities.

President Rodrigo Duterte placed the Philippines under a state of calamity last March 17 due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The whole island of Luzon is currently under an enhanced community quarantine until April 30 to curb the spread of coronavirus.

PH policy limiting advance payments to 15% may hamper COVID-19 vaccine procurement – DBM chief

Robie de Guzman   •   February 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Wendel Avisado on Friday raised the need to increase the 15-percent limitation on advance payments on the contract amount for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines amid government preparations for the roll-out of its inoculation plans.

Avisado said raising the down payment limit will “ensure the timely and efficient implementation of the COVID-19 vaccination plan.”

Memorandum Order No. 172, s. 2005 only allows advance payment not exceeding 15% of the contract amount for procurement of goods required to address contingencies arising from natural or man-made calamities in areas where a “State of Calamity” has been declared by appropriate authorities.

Avisado said the government is presently experiencing difficulties in negotiating with various pharmaceutical companies due to the limitations imposed under existing laws.

“…Currently, pwede ka lang magbayad o mag advance payment hanggang 15%… Ang gusto ng mga pharmaceutical industries, bayaran mo na… I-aadvance mo na ang payment bago ma-ideliver… In other words, talagang tatalunin tayo ng mga mayayamang bansa,” Avisado said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Avisado called for greater patience and understanding from the public regarding the vaccine procurement process.

He stressed that the government cannot divulge specific details on its negotiations with pharmaceutical companies—such as prices and the manners of delivery—as both parties are bound by a confidentiality agreement.

However, he assured that all of the transactions made by the government remain legitimate and honest.

The government is also committed to ensure the safe and timely procurement, transportation, and administration of COVID-19 vaccines despite all of the limitations and challenges, he added.

“Bigyan natin ng pagkakataon naman ang ating pamahalaan na makalap muna at makakuha ng vaccine. Kasi hindi pa man nangyayari yan, ay katakot-takot na batikos ang naririnig natin, meron po mga pamamaraan dyan, kung saan makikita’t makikita natin kung meron talagang kalokohan,” Avisado said.

The DBM chief also reassured the public that the budget for the said vaccines has already been allocated and is now ready for release.

He likewise welcomed and acknowledged the efforts of various local government units across the country for complementing and cooperating with the national government in its efforts to secure the much-needed vaccines.

“Meron tayong pondo dyan…. P82.5B ang inilaan ng ating pamahalaan. Wag po tayong mag worry. Nakikipagtulungan ang mga local government units natin at sila din ay handa na bumili sa abot ng kanilang makakaya. We appreciate that very much po,” Avisado said.

PNP clearance required for civil society groups wishing to aid local COVID-19 efforts – DILG

Robie de Guzman   •   February 5, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Friday said civil society organizations (CSO) that wish to be part of local COVID-19 response and recovery efforts need to first secure a clearance from the Philippine National Police (PNP).

DILG Officer-in-Charge Bernardo Florece Jr. said this is to ensure that only legitimate civil society groups are engaging with the department and local government units.

“To determine the legitimacy of CSOs and prevent scams and other fraud, they are required to secure clearances from the PNP in addition to local accreditation requirements,” Florece said in a statement.

The clearance to be issued by the PNP shall indicate that such CSO has no record of illegal activity. 

“Gusto lang nating makasiguro na ang mga CSOs na katrabaho natin ay tunay na nais makatulong sa gobyerno at sa mga mamamayan,” he said.

The DILG said the directive follows reports of “fly-by-night CSOs” that wish to engage with local governments in order to lend legitimacy to their operations and secure funding from local and foreign institutions to finance their personal agenda.

“Kunwari ay gustong makatulong at makikipagpartner sa gobyerno pero may hidden agenda ang mga ito kaya kailangan nating siguruhin kung legitimate ba talaga sila o nanggagamit lang,” Florece said.

In an earlier directive, the DILG called on CSOs, private sector organizations and volunteer groups/individuals to work with barangay leaders in contact tracing, public information campaign on Disiplina Muna, values formation training, and capacity building activities on livelihood opportunities.

Among the other requirements for CSOs to be accredited as stated in DILG Memo Circular 2019-72 are the following:

  • List of current officers and members
  • Board resolution signifying intention for accreditation
  • Original sworn statement that CSO is an independent, non-partisan organization
  • Minutes of annual meeting, annual accomplishment report and
  • Financial statement for the preceding year

Meanwhile, DILG Spokesperson, Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said the department has issued Memo Circular 2021-012 urging LGUs to set up a CSO Desk that will be responsible for handling CSO-related concerns in their localities.

“Ang paglahok ng CSOs sa pamamahala ng gobyerno ay ipinag-utos ng Konstitusyon. Having CSO Desks in LGUs will ensure effective and reasonable participation at all levels of social, political, and economic decision-making,” said Malaya.

It should be headed by a designated or appointed CSO Desk Officer who shall facilitate and promote people’s participation in governance within the LGU.

“LGUs are further directed, through the Sanggunian, to enact an ordinance establishing a system of partnership between the LGU and CSOs that defines their roles and involvement in various local government programs, projects, and activities,” the DILG said.

“This includes their participation in the local special bodies, committees, task forces, and similar groups, as required by law and the national government,” it added.

According to Malaya, the CSO Desk will be responsible for the organization of federation or coalition of sectoral CSOs, including the formation of the People’s Council in the LGU.

LGUs are likewise encouraged to establish a mechanism that will facilitate a federation of sectoral CSOs in the barangay, municipality, city, and province, and a People’s Council in the province, city, or municipality, with membership coming from the different sectors of CSOs or POs that are accredited, registered and recognized by the LGUs.

“The participation of CSOs in government processes is important for the purpose of providing check and balance and in exacting accountability. An active CSO participation is an indicator of healthy participatory governance,” Malaya said.

Philippines ranks 79th in COVID-19 response among 98 nations

Marje Pelayo   •   January 29, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Australia’s Lowy Institute, in its recent research on countries’ response against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, ranked the Philippines 79th among 98 nations.

The research body, Australia’s leading think tank, used the following indicators to rate the countries’ COVID-19 response: 

  • Confirmed cases
  • Confirmed deaths
  • Confirmed cases per million people
  • Confirmed deaths per million people
  • Confirmed cases as proportion of tests
  • Tests per thousand people

It said the Philippines scored 30.6 which is way behind the scores of New Zealand (94.4); Vietnam (90.8) and Taiwan (86.4).

On the other hand, the Philippines has surpassed the score of Indonesia at 85th place and the United States which is at 94th place.

The Department of Health (DOH), however, is not pleased with the result of the ranking saying it is not correct to compare the Philippines with other countries in terms of COVID-19 response.

The DOH said the Philippines’ healthcare system and income level is not parallel with other countries when it comes to responding to the pandemic.

“Some countries may have all the resources in the world and they can do testing for everybody,” said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.

“Some countries may have all the resources in the world where they can be able to setup facilities as quickly as they would need them,” she assed.

Vergeire argued that the parameters used were incomplete in many aspects.

Parang hindi po kumpleto kasi tinignan lang nila numero ng mga kaso, numero ng mga deaths it has to be that they analyze together with the capacity of the health system and alongside with the granular indicators or parameters that we use in the country,” Vergeire said.

Apart from COVID-19 response, the DOH likewise explained against comparing the Philippines with other countries in terms of vaccination.

This is the DOH’s response to the earlier reports that the Philippines lagged behind Myanmar and Bangladesh that already rolled out their respective COVID-19 vaccination when the Philippines is more progressive than the two nations.

“This is not a race of who starts first but this is really something na magagawa natin ng maayos at mabibigyan ng protection ang most of our countrymen,” Vergeire said.

Kaya inaayos ang lahat ng negosasyon na iyan,” she added. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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