* Proposed budget 11.5% higher than in 2021
* Pandemic response, infrastructure take bulk of budget
* Philippines battling renewed surge in COVID-19 cases (Adds details on budget, background)
MANILA, Aug 17 (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is seeking a record 5.024 trillion pesos ($99.13 billion) budget for 2022 to help the country recover from the coronavirus pandemic, the presidential spokesperson said on Tuesday.
The government is facing multiple challenges including reviving a pandemic-hit economy, containing the spread of more infectious coronavirus variants, and creating jobs through its infrastructure programme.
The proposed budget, 11.5% higher than the 2021 allotment, will be submitted to congress on Monday, Harry Roque, Duterte’s spokesperson, told a news conference.
The social services sector, which includes COVID-19 vaccine procurement and universal healthcare, will receive the highest allocation at 1.92 trillion pesos, followed by 1.47 trillion pesos for the economic service sector that involves key infrastructure projects, Roque said.
It is the final budget for Duterte, who will end his single six-year term in June, 2022.
The Southeast Asian nation, which was among the fastest growing economies in Asia before the pandemic, exited recession in the second quarter here after five consecutive quarters of contraction. A renewed surge in COVID-19 cases, driven by the virulent Delta variant, has brought total infections to 1.75 million and deaths to 30,366, government data show.
Duterte’s proposed budget will likely face tough scrutiny from lawmakers after state auditors flagged inefficiencies and deficiencies here in the use of government funds, including those meant to fund pandemic measures.
The health ministry is under fire for not paying risk allowances to overworked nurses, here and “deficiencies” involving $1.3 billion, casting doubt on the country’s pandemic response.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque, who has faced calls to resign, at the weekend denied that any money had been stolen and Duterte on Monday backed the minister.
$1 = 50.68 Philippine pesos Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales Editing by Ed Davies