“2022 budget prolongs pandemic and PH recovery”—CPDG

September 22, 2021

Photo from the House of Representatives

September 22, 2021

Civil society organizations (CSOs) reiterate indignation on the proposed 2022 national budget of the Duterte administration.

“Anyone who looks at the 2022 budget will immediately see that it does not respond enough to the country’s most urgent issues of COVID-19 and poverty alleviation,” Liza Maza, spokesperson of the Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG) stressed.

The Coalition for People’s Right to Health (CPRH) has already said that “the people cannot hope for a better pandemic response if the 2022 health budget will be approved at the proposed amount”. The infrastructure budget still increased from  ₱1.1 trillion this year to ₱1.2 trillion in 2022 to take up about a quarter of the total budget. Yet despite the ever-growing need for hospitals and medical facilities, the health infrastructure outlay only gets a meager ₱13 billion or just barely 1% of total infrastructure spending.

“We are almost two years into the world’s longest lockdown yet the administration is still desperately failing to see where its priorities should lie,” said CPRH co-convener Dr. Joshua San Pedro.

In an earlier statement, independent research group IBON Foundation said that “the disproportionate allocations for infrastructure, military and police, and debt servicing should be corrected and more resources should be used for immediately addressing the country’s health and economic emergency”.

The budget allotment for financial aid or ayuda and economic stimulus is also found wanting. This is expected to plunge marginalized sectors into deeper poverty and worse hunger. Likewise, it does not pave the way to economic recovery.

Ayuda must be increased to at least ₱10,000 per family given at least two or three times to compensate for drastic losses in incomes and livelihoods. “[Ayuda] could lessen the mobility of people and likewise the spread of the virus. This positive effect can impact both the community, the economy, and the health care delivery” said Health Alliance for Democracy in a statement.

In contrast, the budget for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) increased by ₱11.4 billion, from ₱19.1 billion in 2021 to 30.5 billion in 2022, which is almost as much as the ₱14.5 billion budget increase of the social welfare department. The task force leads in the red-tagging of rights defenders which endangers lives and has already led to killings and arrests of activists, as well as forced mass surrender of farmers, fisherfolk, workers, indigenous peoples.

CPDG said that the excessive budget for infrastructure must be reduced and NTF-ELCAC should be abolished to free up more funds for health infrastructure and services to improve public healthcare, especially amid the steady increase of COVID-19 cases.

“The Duterte administration’s budget proposal for 2022 should be scrutinized to identify items for realignment. Funds intended for least priority concerns such as tourism and non-essential infrastructure should be realigned to social services ranging from healthcare to aid subsidies for the people’s benefit. For over a year, the people consistently clamored for mass testing, effective contact-tracing, and speedy vaccine inoculation; the national budget should be reorganized according to these demands” Maza added. #