The Philippines (and the world) is grappling with the realities of the pandemic. Relief efforts are underway, medical facilities are working overtime at high risk to the staff, and the country's economy has been dealt a huge blow.
It now begs the question: Where can the government get the funding to deal with the crisis?
One of the answers is to realign some of the spendings the government had planned for this year, specifically major infrastructure works.
"Ang mensahe ng Presidente, gagamitin natin ang pondo ng taumbayan. Kung kinakailangan, sabi nga po ng Presidente noong Tuesday, ititigil niya ang lahat ng infrastructure projects kung kinakailangang gastusin ang pondo ng bayan para magkaroon ng pagkain at iba pang pangangailangan ang ating mga kababayan," said Harry Roque, Presidential Spokesperson in a press conference on Thursday.
[Translation: The message of the President is that we will use taxpayer money. If need be, like what the President stated last Tuesday, we will cease infrastructure projects if we need to use public funds for Filipinos to have food and other basic necessities.]
COVID-19 relief efforts are taking a toll on public coffers. PhP 200 billion is being used for subsidies for 18 million households as employees are unable to report to work and earn. And while the economy did perform well in the last year, there are going to be long term economic impacts on the local economy.
In previous announcements, the government had planned to spend PhP 1 trillion in 2020 on a variety of major infrastructure works involving road, rail, airport improvements, so on and so forth. President Duterte had promised to bring about the Golden Age of Infrastructure as one of the pillars of his administration, but it seems that it has to take a back seat to respond to the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic.
"Ang pangako ni Presidente ay talagang uubisin muna niya ang kaban ng taong bayan para sa mga tao kaysa sa ibang mga proyekto," said Spokesperson Roque earlier today.
[Translation: The President's promise is that he will finish public funds for the people rather than for other projects.]
We asked a DPWH official as to what projects could be canceled or suspended, given the wide scope of projects nationwide.
“We have no idea as of the moment,” said Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo, DPWH Build Build Build committee chairperson. “It's still under discussion.”