Pangilinan: Fast-track fund release to address hunger, joblessness, economic downturn

CITING the 25-percent project accomplishment of the Department of Agriculture (DA) under Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2), Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan calls on the government to fast-track release of funds and implementation of Bayanihan 2 to help address hunger, joblessness, and the economic downturn.

“Yung nakita natin halimbawa dito sa datos ng DA na 25 percent lang ng Bayanihan 2 funds ang so far nagagastos, yan ang isang dapat tutukan: yung pag-release ng pondo ng gobyerno. Nandyan na yung pondo eh. Hindi lang naipapatupad nang mabilis ang pag-release. Sabi nga aanhin mo pa ang damo kung patay na yung kabayo,” Pangilinan said in a media forum on Thursday, February 4.

Asked how to address unemployment following layoffs from big companies like the Philippine Airlines, Philip Morris, Makati Shangri-La, among many others, Pangilinan said government must step in and provide stimulus.

“I think part of the reason why talagang hindi tayo mabilis na makapag-recover — apart from itong delay sa pagpapatupad ng ating Covid response, yung kakulangan ng contact tracing, testing, kakulangan ng vaccine rollout — ay yung mabagal at makupad na pag-release ng pondo ng gobyerno. Government must step in and provide yung stimulus,” Pangilinan said.

The Philippines Airlines on Wednesday announced a lay-off of 2,300 employees by mid-March as the national carrier continues to weather the effects of the pandemic.

Early in the year, Makati Shangri-La announced that they will temporarily suspend operations by February 1.

“Kaya nga Bayanihan 2 yan eh, para harapin itong problema ng mga manggagawa, ng mga magsasaka, ng mga mamimili, so gastusin agad-agad, ilabas kaagad-agad. Maghanap ng paraan to address the bottlenecks in the release these funds,” Pangilinan said.

Expressing alarm over the snail-paced utilization of the Bayanihan 2 funds, the senator said that focus must be on this first before moving to a possible Bayanihan 3.

“Ang sa akin, Bayanihan 3 is something we should begin discussing. Pero what’s the point of passing Bayanihan 3 if the funds will suffer the same fate as Bayanihan 2? Walang problemang pag-usapan ang Bayanihan 3, ang dagdag ayuda, pero alamin natin: ano ang unang hakbang ng gobyerno para gastusin yung nakabinbin at nakatengga na pondo ng Bayanihan 2?” Pangilinan said.

On Monday’s hearing discussing the high prices of basic commodities, the Senate asked why the DA only has a 25-percent accomplishment rate for Bayanihan 2, of which the department has a P24-billion allocation.

According to the DA, the fund was released in staggered amounts, with the last release done at the end of January.

There is, however, no indication of DA programs for livestock that would have helped cushion the effects of high prices and low supply for hog raisers.

The DA is expected to submit a complete report on fund utilization under Bayanihan 2.

“The funds are there and there is no excuse why there is considerable delay considering precisely naghihingalo na ang ekonomiya at ang daing ng ating mga kababayan, nasaan ang ayuda, nasaan ang suporta sa iba’t ibang mga sektor?” Pangilinan said.

Bayanihan 2, or Republic Act 11494, was rushed in September 2020 and was supposed to lapse December 19, 2020.

In early January 2021, use of funds under said law, amounting to about P38 billion, was extended until June 30, 2021.