House hearing on govt's pandemic response funds eyed

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 22) — The House of Representatives may conduct its own probe on how the government spent public funds to address the COVID-19 pandemic, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said Thursday.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source, Velasco said the lower chamber could exercise its oversight functions to look into the matter when session resumes.

"Definitely kailangan rin yun. Bukod sa aming power of the purse, we also have the power of oversight so definitely lahat ng mga budget na pinapasa namin, we need to find out if they were being spent well," he said.

[Translation: Definitely, we need that too. Aside from the power of the purse, we also have the power of oversight so definitely in all the budgets we pass, we need to find out if they were being spent well.]

The Senate Committee of the Whole previously held a series of hearings to check how the government utilized funds for the country's economic recovery.

"I’m sure we are going to have a few hearings so the Executive will be able to explain and show to us kung saan na po nila nagamit yung mga pondo na inilaan po natin para sa pagsagot ng COVID pandemic," Velasco said.

[Translation: I'm sure we are going to have a few hearings so the Executive will be able to explain and show to us how they are using the funds that we have allocated to respond to the pandemic.]

The Speaker also stressed that they are open to passing other key measures and providing additional funds for the vaccination of younger population amid the threat of the highly transmissible Delta variant.

The government has set aside ₱88.6 billion for the country's vaccination program. Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez earlier told the Senate that it may cost up to ₱25 billion to vaccinate about 15 million minors in the country aged 12-15 against COVID-19. He said another ₱60 billion is needed for booster shots of about 85 million Filipino adults and teens.