MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo has assured the public that funding her COVID-19 response program, if she is elected president, is possible despite perceptions that her proposals are too ambitious.
Robredo stressed in her press briefing on Monday that there is nothing wrong about being ambitious, especially with the grim past due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, she also maintained that they have identified possible sources of funding should she succeed in her presidential bid.
Based on her estimates, they have already pointed to around P500 billion of the administration’s current funding which may be diverted to a COVID-19 response program.
“Kailangan maging ambitious kasi ang laki ng problema natin ngayon. Mayroon na kaming kwenta. Iyong kwenta namin, tinitingnan namin kung saan mahuhugot iyong mga pondo, kasi it is not as if kailangan […] nating mag-infuse ng panibagong pera,” Robredo told reporters in her office.
(We have to be ambitious because we have a big problem today. We have computed the funding. According to our calculations, we are looking at where we can source the funds, because it is not as if we need to infuse new money.)
“Kasi maraming mga departments ang puwede nating i-reorient ang kanilang budget para ang focus, COVID response. Iyong kwenta namin ngayon na nahanap na namin sa budget somewhere in the area na mga 500 billion pesos,” she added.
(We have a lot of departments where we can reorient their budgets so that the focus is on the COVID-19 response. Our computations today show that we were able to find a budget somewhere in the area of P500 billion.)
Robredo mentioned the funds within the Office of the President which she said amounts to around P4.5 billion; the special purpose funds for other offices, which is at P54 billion.
She insisted that it is possible to fund her program, as she has shown in her stint with the Office of the Vice President that a lot of things can be done even with just a small budget, as long as public officials can get the private sector to help.
“Nagawa na namin iyan dito sa opisina, na mayroon kaming kakarampot na pera pero siniguro namin na i-shift muna siya sa COVID response. Possible siya, eh. Kailangan lang talagang all hands on deck tayo, na lahat ng mga agencies committed, na iyong kanilang mga pondo na hindi pa very urgent gamitin for other items, magamit muna for COVID response,” Robredo said.
(We were able to do that in our office, that even if we have a small budget, we ensured that it was geared towards a COVID-19 response. That’s possible. We just need to have all hands on deck, that all the agencies are committed, that the funds allocated for not very urgent programs would be used for the COVID response.)
“Saka iyong model na sinimulan namin sa Office of the Vice President, na iyong mga gawain para sa COVID response operations, hindi siya kinakailangan na lahat siya gobyerno. Iyong pag-harness ng private sector to help, napakalaking bagay. In fact, sa aming COVID response operations, mas malaki pa iyong contributions ng private sector kumpara sa pondo namin,” she added.
(Also, the model we used at the Office of the Vice President, that not all of our COVID-19 response operations should rely on the government. Harnessing the private sector’s support is a big thing. In fact, in our COVID response operations, the contributions of the private sector are larger than our funds.)
Earlier, Robredo revealed more details into her COVID-19 plan, saying that she will try to stop corruption by placing a Health secretary who would be held accountable for his or her actions.
It was one of the ten pointers she raised, including promises to fix the problems in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), providing proper salaries to health workers and social aid to people living in areas under a lockdown, a national vaccination program, and support to the workforce and businesses.
Robredo’s plans were a continuation of her previous pronouncements about a freedom from COVID-19 plan, which would be her platform if she is elected as president in the upcoming polls.
COVID-19 cases in the country have significantly decreased after the surge last August and September due to the dreaded Delta variant died down. However, experts are still worried that another surge may take place in the country if Filipinos disregard public health safety protocols — especially since huge crowds including children were observed in public spaces recently.
Robredo said that despite the improving data, the country must not lose its focus on beating COVID-19.
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