The COVID-19 variant Omicron threat—which has raised a global health concern—was not considered in the P5.024-trillion national budget for 2022, but the Department of Budget and Management said that allocations of agencies could be augmented or modified depending on the situation.
At a Palace briefing Friday, DBM officer-in-charge Tina Canda said the budget was drafted when the Omicron variant had not yet been detected.
Canda said: “We have no idea yet how much resources this Omicron variant will demand. But if our response to the new variant requires bigger resources, we will adjust through augmentations or modifications of [the budgets of] all the departments and agencies.”
At the ceremonial signing of the 2022 national budget on Thursday, President Rodrigo Duterte said the rising cases of the Omicron variant were bothering him, saying it could further strain government resources.
“It might translate into for government to pour again the resources [due to] the resurgence of COVID-19 with another form. I’m leaving the office in a few months. I am worried for our] response na naman natin and how it would intrude into the budget,” Duterte said.
Canda said that next year’s budget had an allocation of around P107 billion for COVID-19 response.
“But out of that amount P87 billion is under the unprogrammed appropriations,” she said.
“This means it can only be released if there will be additional revenues collected by the government. It usually comes on a year-to-year basis, but it won’t immediately cover our needs,” Canda said Friday.
Canda said an initial P20.6 billion is programmed for the COVID-19 response, which could be released at “any given point during the first quarter.”
“Of this amount, P7.9 billion [is] for the procurement ng RT-PCR cartridges. Then, we have P900 million for the construction of a virology lab,” she said.
“There is also P2.8 billion for the purchase of vaccines and P9 billion for the allowances of our healthcare workers.”
On the P87 billion under unprogrammed appropriations, the acting DBM chief said P45 billion will be for the procurement of vaccines and P42 billion for the special risk allowance of healthcare workers.
She added: “I think by the second quarter onwards, we will have collected enough revenues to make funds available for the procurement of vaccines and the payment of our healthcare workers.
At the same time, the DBM said President Duterte vetoed a few items in the P5.024-trillion national budget for 2022, which were deemed to have no significant impact in the overall budget operations next year.
As for the vetoed items in the next year’s budget, Canda said, “Number one, the application of Agrarian Reform law in state universities and colleges; second, the use of commercial banks, thrift banks for the Department of Agriculture; and the last was the Department of
Transportation’s gender responsive restrooms program.”
Canda said the vetoed items did not have budgetary provisions under the 2022 General Appropriations Act.
Ratified by both the Senate and House of Representatives on December 15, the General Appropriations Act of 2022 contains COVID-related allocations, including at least P50 billion for the Special Risk Allowances of medical frontliners and another P50 billion for booster