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LGU COVID response spending hits P119-B as of June 2021

Local government units (LGUs) have spent P118.9 billion combined on coronavirus disease 2019 response measures as of June 2021, according to preliminary data gathered by the Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF).

In a report to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, the BLGF said of the total, P76.44 billion came from LGUs own funds and another P35.44 billion from the Bayanihan Grant under the 2020 national budget and in view of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Bayanihan 1), whose effectivity was extended up to last year. 

LGUs also utilized P4.93 billion of their unexpended cash balances of public funds held in trust that were transferred to the general fund (GF) of LGUs to support their pandemic response efforts.

Another P2.14 billion spent by LGUs came from grants and donations, the BLGF said.

Under Republic Act 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2), the unexpended cash balances of public funds held in trust by the local governments were allowed to be transferred to the GF of the LGUs to support local government programs and projects in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, while RA 11520 extended the validity of the 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA) up to Dec. 31, 2021.

The BLGF’s report was in line with Dominguez’s earlier directive to the bureau to monitor the pandemic-related finances of LGUs.

The BLGF, in turn, developed an online reporting system for local treasurers to track the receipts and expenditures of all provinces, cities, and municipalities related to their COVID-19 programs, projects, and activities.

“This reporting system was used to establish and assess baseline local finance data to serve as inputs in managing the COVID-19 response of the government,” BLGF executive director Niño Raymond Alvina said in his report.

The data gathered by the BLGF covered the period from April 2020 to June 2021, with 100 percent reporting compliance of all provincial, city, and municipal treasurers of 1,715 LGUs.

Based on the BLGF’s preliminary analysis of the reports submitted by local treasurers, Alvina said LGUs have utilized PHP35.44 billion or 96 percent of the total of P37.02 billion under the Bayanihan Grant to fund their respective pandemic response measures as of June 30, 2021.

Of the P35.44 billion, 87 percent or P30.83 billion was spent by LGUs for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE), mainly on food assistance and other relief goods for households, while the remaining 13 percent or P4.61 billion was used for capital outlays.

Alvina said LGUs were reminded last year that the Bayanihan Grant was valid for disbursement only until Dec. 31, 2021, and unutilized portions shall be reverted to the National Treasury.

The bulk of the COVID-19 response war chest of LGUs came from their own funds totaling P76.44 billion as of end-June 2021. Of this amount, P59.03 billion was used for LGU-funded programs, of which 87 percent or P51.73 billion was spent on MOOE.

“There were 587 LGUs that provided their own projects to their constituents, with 482 or 82 percent of which are municipalities, 68 (12 percent) are cities, and 37 (6 percent) are provinces,” Alvina said.

In terms of MOOE spent for COVID-19 response sourced from LGUs’ own funds, the National Capital Region (NCR), Calabarzon, and Central Luzon had the highest disbursements at P16.1 billion, P6.33 billion, and P5.18 billion, respectively.

The LGUs also reported about their respective sector-specific financial assistance programs for students, drivers, and senior citizens, among others, which amounted to P17.41 billion, with P13.59 billion coming from the cities, Alvina said.

He said LGUs have also transferred from their trust funds (TFs) to their GF the total amount of P5.44 billion to help finance their COVID-19 response. Of this amount, P4.93 billion or 91 percent was already utilized by the LGUs as of end-June last year.*PNA

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