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Tito Sotto questions Duterte’s need for fresh COVID-19 funding: Wala pa ngang ayuda lahat ng mahihirap, nanghihingi na?

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Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III questioned Friday (April 24) the urgency of passing a supplemental budget for the administration’s coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) response after President Rodrigo Duterte said the government’s funds are already running low.

In a message to reporters, Sotto said the Senate has yet to receive a formal request from Malacañang to pass a supplemental budget.

“At this point, everything is in the hands of the executive department. We have not received any request for a supplementary budget,” he said.

“We will be ready to do our part on the 4th of May,” Sotto added. “We can address this on May 4. But [what] is the use of additional funding if the SAP has not reached the informal sector families yet?”

Senator Sonny Angara, chair of the Senate finance committee, said he was certain that the Senate and House will prioritize the passage of a supplemental budget for COVID-19 if Duterte asks for it.

“If a supplemental budget is needed I’m sure both houses of Congress will hear and pass that to authorize the President and the Executive branch to spend more or to realign from existing budgetary items,” he said in a statement.

Angara, however, said the government should fast track the release of cash aid for poor families hit by the COVID-19 crisis, given its distribution rate is at a low 20 percent.

In a taped briefing aired earlier in the day, Duterte said the government is already “running low on budget” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said the administration has only some P352 billion left to spend for now on the health crisis, while Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the government has to be prudent in spending as tax collections are decreasing.

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