A whopping P9 billion is set to be returned to the National Treasury after the Duterte government failed to spend it on pandemic response, prompting lawmakers to lament the loss of unused Bayanihan 2 funds that were set to expire on June 30 after Congress and the President failed to pass a law to extend its validity.
Unspent funds meant for pandemic response would be good if the country was doing well, but for one that ranked 52nd out of 53 countries in the recent Bloomberg Covid Resilience Ranking, Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman is right when he said this is a serious indictment of the failure of the Duterte administration to rescue Filipinos from health complications and bail out the economy.
House ways and means committee chairman, Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Salceda, adds that one of the casualties in the expiration of funds was the contract of contact tracers and healthcare workers.
Additionally, funds are crucial for areas hard hit by the virus. It can boost testing and contact tracing, the pillars of pandemic response, as well as provide more healthcare workers, supplies and equipment that are essential in keeping hospitals afloat to handle the continuous surge of infections.
Funds are necessary but if not used or used improperly, those billions that were made available are ultimately useless and unable to make a difference in a country that has been needing all the help it can get when it comes to its lackluster Covid response.
In our case, we have to remember that unless a successful response had been effectively mounted, and after human lives and the economy were actually saved and helped, returning P9 billion to the National Treasury should not be considered an achievement but instead a massive failure in the face of the country’s still dismal situation.*