A “defeat COVID” budget that will finance the Philippines’ pandemic recovery still has not materialized yet, even as government agencies at the national and local levels grapple with the third Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila in 18 months.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference on August 11, former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano pointed to what he described as a cavalier attitude toward crafting the 2022 national budget, which he said should have been designed around programs aimed at strengthening healthcare and economic recovery.
“I’m not even sure if it’s a defeat COVID budget. Kasi ang 2021 (budget), ngayon, nag-overconfident tayo. Hindi kasi tayo naglagay ng pondo para sa ayuda o para sa ECQ, ‘kala kasi natin tapos na, may bakuna na,” he said.
(I’m not even sure if it is a defeat COVID budget, because we set the 2021 budget feeling overconfident. We did not set aside funding for cash aid or for additional ECQs, we may have thought we were done [with COVID] because we have vaccines.)
The former Speaker said the government should not be acting on hunches this late in the pandemic, especially in light of the spread of the Delta variant that has led to the declaration of a third lockdown in the Philippine capital since the start of the pandemic last year.
“Ilang tao ang namamatay sa maling akala? We keep teaching people, younger people, hindi pwedeng akala, but government keeps on acting based on akala or hula. Hindi pwede yun, kailangan may plano, at kailangan predictable,” Cayetano said.
(How many people die from wrong hunches? We keep teaching people, younger people, that one cannot make decisions out of guesswork, but government keeps on acting on hunches or guesses. We cannot keep doing that. We need plans, and we need it to be predictable.)
Cayetano made the remarks to media before distributing P10,000 in cash aid each to 51 retail sector workers in Metro Manila on Wednesday, August 11, as part of his Sampung Libong Pag-Asa COVID-19 financial assistance program which began in May this year.
The initiative stems from efforts by Cayetano and the Balik sa Tamang Serbisyo (BTS) sa Kongreso legislative alliance to set the minimum cash aid per Filipino family at P10,000 as part of the country’s pandemic recovery.
The Sampung Libong Pag-Asa program has so far benefitted more than 8,000 families throughout the country.