/ 27 July 2021

SENATOR Panfilo Lacson on Monday lamented that the P63-billion underspending of Bayanihan 2 funds denied much-needed assistance to many Filipinos whose lives were affected by the pandemic, including students undergoing online learning program.

“If the money was not fully disbursed, the affected Filipinos suffer because they are denied the aid meant for them,” Lacson said.

“It is a disservice to many, to say the least,” he added.

Lacson said that P46.397 billion was undisbursed while P17.273 billion was unobligated. The Bayanihan to Recover As One law lapsed on June 30.

“We should keep in mind that underspending is determined not by fund releases but by obligations and disbursements. And based on my research, is there underspending? Yes!” Lacson said.

He explained that funds are deemed obligated when the contracts for the projects have been signed and funds are deemed disbursed when the funds are actually paid to the suppliers.

The release of the budget by the Budget department to the agencies concerned is not a determinant of underspending, because the funds remain with the agencies and not with the intended beneficiaries.

“The bad thing is that Bayanihan 2 already expired last June 30. Those who were denied the funds will no longer get aid unless a new law can be passed,” the senator added.

Lacson said that of the P205.117-billion allotment under Bayanihan 2, agencies incurred an obligation of P187.844 billion, or an obligation rate of 91.58 percent.

But only P141.447 billion was disbursed, for a disbursement rate of 75.30% and 24.7% has not been disbursed.

“This can be considered huge underspending with P46.397 billion undisbursed and P17.273 billion unobligated,” he said.

Based on data released by the Department of Education, P4.35 billion of Bayanihan 2 funds were intended for the provision of laptops for teachers, P2.4 billion for Internet/connectivity load, P1.2 billion for DepEd TV and Radio, and P300 million for learning modules.

The DepEd obligated P3.821 billion of the funds and disbursed P3.751 billion.