The Senate has approved on third and final reading Senate Bill 1564 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) to allow the government to continue its COVID-19 response and help the affected sectors recover from the impact of the pandemic.
Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, the bill’s author and sponsor, said Bayanihan 2 will effectively extend the validity of the government’s COVID-19 programs and interventions under Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which lapsed on June 5.
“With Bayanihan 2, the government would be assured of sufficient funding for the ramped up testing for COVID-19 and for contact tracing. It will also ensure that our valiant health workers who contract or succumb to the disease will continuously receive financial support,” Angara said.
He said the new law will also allow the government to continue providing assistance to Filipino businesses and workers who have been hurt by the pandemic, including overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were either repatriated or whose deployments were suspended.
In his 5th State-of-the-Nation Address, President Rodrigo Duterte asked Congress to support the passage of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act to “supplement funds for recovery and response against the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
A total of P140 billion will be appropriated to fund the provisions of the law, a figure reached after long consultations with the administration’s economic managers.
READ: Palace sees no urgency for Bayanihan 2
The bill appropriates P10 billion for the procurement of PCR testing and extraction kits and corresponding supplies including enhancement of DOH capacities in programs involving elimination and control of other diseases.
A total of P15 billion will go to the cash-for-work program and the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers or TUPAD of the Department of Labor and Employment.
To help the displaced workers, including probationary, project, seasonal, contractual and casual employees in private health institutions, tourism, culture and arts, creative industries, construction, public transportation, trade industries, and other sectors of the economy as may be identified by the DOLE, P17 billion will be provided as unemployment or involuntary separation assistance.
Also included in the benefit package are freelancers, self-employed and repatriated OFWs, including those whose deployment were suspended due to a government-imposed deployment ban.
A total of P50 billion will go to the government financial institutions Land Bank of the Philippines (P30 billion), Development Bank of the Philippines (P15 billion), and the Philippine Guarantee Corp. (P5 billion) as capital infusion for the grant of low-interest loans to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME).
READ: As cases surge, MECQ for NCR pushed
For the agriculture sector, P17 billion will go to the Plant, Plant, Plant program, including cash subsidies and interest-free loans under the Agricultural Credit Policy Council and government financial institutions.
To assist the affected members of the transport sector, a total of P17 billion will go to the Department of Transportation for the provision of interest rate subsidies and the provision of temporary livelihood to displaced workers.
The tourism industry, which was among the hardest hit by the pandemic, will get P10 billion through the Department of Tourism for assistance to the critically affected businesses.
State universities and colleges will get assistance for the development of smart campuses to implement flexible learning.
The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority will also get additional funds for its training for work scholarship program and special training for employment program for the retooling, retraining and up-skilling of displaced workers, including the returning OFWs.
Bayanihan 2 will also pave the way for the continuation of programs under Bayanihan 1 such as the provision of emergency subsidies for areas placed under enhanced community quarantine; the swift procurement of essential equipment such as medical supplies and equipment to be used for COVID-19, goods and services for social amelioration measures, construction of temporary medical facilities, and other critical services for distribution centers and temporary medical facilities; the use by LGUs of more than 5 percent of the amount allocated for their calamity fund; the grant of a grace period for the payment of loans and residential rents and the engagement of temporary human resources for health.
READ: Overload hits PH healthcare as infections top 83k mark
In the House of Representatives, the committee tasked with drafting COVID-19-related legislation approved a bill that strengthens the capacity of government banks to provide assistance to small business affected by the pandemic.
House Bill 6795 seeks to help workers in micro-, small- and medium-enterprises (MSMEs) as well as in big strategic companies by allocating P55 billion as paid-up capital for Land Bank of the Philippines (P35 billion), the Development Bank of the Philippines (P15 billion) and the Philippine Guarantee Corp. (P5 billion) so that they can expand their loan programs, particularly to help small businesses.
At the same time, House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez approved the House resolution expressing appreciation and gratitude to health care works and other frontline workers who rendered ervices to the nation in the battle against COVID-19.
At the same time, Romualdez said the House is committed to pass the priority bills identified by the President in his fifth SONA.
He also said the President’s call for the reimposition of the death penalty for drug-related offenses would be discussed thoroughly.
Duterte, in his speech, has called on Congress to expedite the passage of several key measures including the Bayanihan To Heal as One Act 2; the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives Enterprises Act (CREATE); the National Housing Development bill; and the Rental Housing Subsidy bill.
“The House had already passed on third and final reading some of the measures mentioned by the President on Monday such as the CREATE, and the bill creating the Department of Overseas Filipinos. Others are either being deliberated at the committees or at the plenary,” Romualdez said.
Duterte said bills amending Republic Act (RA) 10912 or the Continuing Professional Development Act of 2016 must also be approved along with the Advanced Nursing Education Act; the Medical Reserve Corps Act; and measures that would institutionalize the National Disease Prevention and Management Authority.
Also identified as legislative priorities were the Unified System of Separation, Retirement and Pension for Uniformed Personnel; the Modernization of the Bureau of Fire Protection; and establishment of education centers in every city and municipality.
Duterte also asked Congress to pass the National Land Use Act; measures creating the Boracay Island Authority; the Coconut Levy Act, the Coconut Farmers Trust Fund; the Rural Agricultural and Fisheries Development Financing System Act; as well as the Internet Transactions Act.
Romualdez said that upon the instruction of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, he will work closely with Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri to tackle and harmonize the President’s latest priority measures and those that have been mentioned in the previous year’s SONA.
With barely two days before July 31, the target deadline set by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to complete the distribution of the second tranche of its emergency subsidy program (ESP), President Duterte said opportunists who misuse the funds intended for the poor will be caught.
“Some opportunists turned crisis into opportunity. We will catch up with you sooner than you think,” the President said on Monday when he delivered his fifth SONA.
In June, the Department of the Interior and Local Government said it received 452 complaints on alleged social amelioration program (SAP) anomalies.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said cases were being prepared against those accused.
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