The next leader of the House of Representatives, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, said Friday the priority bills of President Rodrigo Duterte that he enumerated in his fifth State-of-the-Nation Address were the Philippines’ best chance to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
“President Duterte made it very clear: his policies and what his administration intends to do in the coming months as we battle the virus,” said Velasco, head of the House committee on energy.
“We in the House of Representatives are ready to support his priority legislation so the country can move forward.”
Velasco made his statement even as Trade secretary Ramon Lopez announced the government’s plan to expand the COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises or CARES program by using P5 billion from the stimulus package and from the proposed budget for 2021.
“As of late, the total disbursement was P650 million, and we are finalizing the release of another P1 billion to further spread this program so that more micro SMEs will be covered,” Lopez said.
The Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines will finance the second tranche under CARES, which will be managed by Small Bank Corporation.
The program has provided assistance to some 9,000 enterprises, and it aims to cater to 5,000 more.
Velasco identified five areas that he said could help the Philippines get back on its feet, as well as the people who had lost their jobs or livelihood.
“The most important of these measures is the Chief Executive’s call for better internet service in view of the work-from-home arrangement of many companies, the new normal in doing business and the online learning of most students—all of which demand a wider and reliable internet connectivity,” Velasco said.
“Everything we do has been dramatically altered because of the health crisis. The situation has underscored the importance of having a stable internet connection so we can continue with our daily routine and have a semblance of normalcy in our lives.
“But more importantly, we should look at the bigger picture. A better internet connection provides every Filipino a fighting chance or an edge to compete in the global economy. With or without COVID-19, that should be the game plan of our telecommunications companies.”
Since the pandemic broke out in March, there has been a dramatic increase in online transactions—whether it’s about doing business with government or private companies or purchases.
“The use of digital platforms has surged to a point we have never seen before, and this will remain in the coming days, so it’s important that the telecommunications companies shape up,” Velasco said.
He said the other benefits of improved interconnectivity were a reduction in red tape and in the possible virus transmission through face-to-face contacts, and the creation of a digital-literate generation.
He said he would also study possible legislation to give flesh to the President’s call for “Plant, Plant, Plant” to support the agriculture sector, use the coco levy fund to help farmers and boost domestic tourism.