An opposition lawmaker on Sunday lamented Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado’s medical leave after the government decided to impose a tougher lockdown in Metro Manila starting August 6, leaving the public’s questions about a round of cash assistance unanswered.
“Just the other day Sec. Avisado said that he was still trying to find funds for the much needed ayuda and awaited only a clear directive from President Duterte. Was such  directive already given? Was he able to find the budget to help our people before the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) is implemented?” Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate said in a statement.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque bared that there are no guidelines yet for the distribution of cash assistance or “ayuda” during the ECQ. He said however that Avisado assured him they will look for ways to get the funds for it.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Saturday said Avisado will go on medical leave from August 2 to 13 following a bout with COVID-19. In his absence, DBM Undersecretary Tina Rose Marie Canda will serve as officer-in-charge.
Should there be lack of funds for financial aid, Zarate suggested to source it from National Budget Circular 586 as well as from the P4.5 billion presidential confidential and intelligence funds, even the funds of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
Further, Zarate asked for the 2022 budget proposal from the DBM, which is needed as the pandemic will continue next year.
“Also, Congress still awaits the executive’s budget proposal for 2022 from the DBM. Is it done already? There is a need to immediately tackle the budget as we are still in the middle of a raging, surging pandemic; we must all act with urgency. This is also the reason why we are pushing for the fast tracking of the Bayanihan 3 so that funds can be alloted for aid, ASAP” he said.
“The Bayanihan 3 should be separate, supplemental budget this year. It should not be included in the 2022 budget proposal  because our affected people need the ayuda now,” he added.
Recently, the  National  Economic and Development Authority said the Philippine economy will lose P105 billion in each week that Metro Manila will be under the strictest form of lockdown. 
Metro Manila will be placed under ECQ from August 6 to 20 due to the threat of the Delta variant of the coronavirus. —KG, GMA News

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