By Billy Begas
House Committee on Ways and Means chairperson and Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said the statement by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that the Philippines still has fiscal space to give additional support to the public “strengthens the case for a third Bayanihan Act and for more funds for better vaccine rollout.”
“The IMF’s statement shows that we can approve Bayanihan 3 with little adverse consequence on our credit standing. Together with the revenue-generating efforts of the House, we should be alright,” Salceda said.
IMF Representative to the Philippines Yongzheng Yang said the “Philippines still has some fiscal space and can and should maintain its fiscal support to recovery.”
Salceda said Congress should have some foresight and prepare fiscal space for vaccination rollout.
“I get the impression that the DOH (Department of Health) has not simulated the costs of mass vaccination well. That worries me. We need to be ready to authorize more funding,” said Salceda referring to the P4.5 billion the DOH is asking for the mega-vaccination rollout.
Salceda explained that in the United States, “for every dollar spent on vaccines, you need at least 80 cents more to get it injected. Transport, storage, personnel costs, and syringes are not cheap.”
“So, with more fiscal space, as validated by the IMF, we can authorize more funding for vaccination efforts. There is no way back to the old normal without mass vaccination. And if the funding for vaccine rollout is not there, vaccines procured will go to waste. To waste vaccines in this crisis is an offense to humanity,” he said.
Salceda added that protecting household incomes while the vaccines have not been administered en masse is the most urgent priority of Congress.
“Ultimately, because we are a consumption-driven economy, when household income goes down, the economy suffers severely. So, our priority is really to support household income with government aid, protect jobs by supporting businesses, and try to stabilize prices so that real income does not suffer,” Salceda explained.
He said Bayanihan 3 can be approved without affecting the credit standing of the country by implementing reforms to generate additional sources of funding.