Gov’t still has enough budget for COVID-19 response — DBM

Marje Pelayo   •   July 8, 2020   •   676

MANILA, Philippines — The national government has shed a total amount of P374.89 billion on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, according President Rodrigo Duterte during the recent pre-SONA forum.

The largest chunk, according to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), was spent on programs designed to strengthen the country’s health sector and relief assistance to those who were affected by the lockdowns.

Still, the DBM maintained that the government has enough budget to sustain its COVID-19 response. 

“Mayroon pong sapat na pondo ang ating pamahalaan upang tugunan at labanan ang patuloy na pananalasa ng COVID-19 pandemic po sa ating bansa (Our government has enough budget to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country),” assured DBM Secretary Wendell Avisado.

Meanwhile, the government has raised around P5.28 billion US dollars budgetary financing support from development partners apart from the P126.36 million U.S dollars from ongoing financing for COVID-19 response projects.  

The Duterte Cabinet stressed the need to open the economy in Metro Manila and the CALABARZON region in order for the country’s overall economy to gradually recover considering that 67 percent of the country’s economy depends on these two regions. 

However, they emphasized the public’s important role in economic recovery, thus strict compliance with the government’s minimum health standards to curb the spread of COVID-19 is critical. 

“It is vital that the economies of these regions reopen. The reality is, this virus won’t go away until a vaccine is found. In the meantime, we have to go back to work, while staying safe,” noted Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez. 

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, meanwhile, urged the public to be vigilant and responsible to avoid being infected with the deadly virus. 

“Each and every Filipino needs to be very vigilant. We should all continue observing social distancing, and other public health measures such as wearing masks, and frequent washing of hands to protect each other’s health and well-being,” he said. 

“We must act responsibly,” he concluded. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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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