The Senate on Thursday ratified the reconciled version of the proposed P140 billion Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or the Bayanihan 2 bill, Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, chair of the senate Finance committee, said.
“The total is still (P140 billion) with allotments for various programs to help our affected countrymen and sectors and an additional (P25 billion) standby appropriations,” he added.
He said the Bayanihan 2 bill, seen to replace the expired Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, laid out the country’s COVID-19 response and recovery plan and allocated funds to help struggling sectors cope with the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
He said the following assistance would be given: Social Amelioration Program (SAP)- Emergency subsidy of P5,000 to P8,000 to affected low-income households in areas under (ECQ/Hard Lockdown) and to households with recently-returned OFWs;
Isolation and quarantine facilities, field hospitals, dormitories for frontliners- P4.5 billion; Contact tracing- P5 billion; Vaccines- P10 billion standby funds including COVID-19 testing; PPE Procurement- P3 billion; Assistance for Displaced Workers- P13 billion; Additional funds for education- P8.9 billion and Transportation sector- P9.5 billion.
Angara said the assistance for the tourism industry and its stakeholders remained “intact and preserved” under the reconciled version of the Bayanihan 2.
At the same time, Angara, in a virtual interview, said there would be a 60-day grace period for the payment of loans in the country once the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2 becomes a law.
In a virtual interview, the chairperson of the Senate committee on finance said this is applicable regardless of community quarantine status.
Before the approval of the measure’s reconciled version, Senate Majority Leader Franklin Drilon said one of the contentious provisions under the Bayanihan 2 was the P10-billion funding for the tourism sector.
But after the bicam, Drilon said senators and House lawmakers were able to arrive at an agreement regarding the aid for the tourism industry.
“Tourism sector got [P10 billion],” said Drilon.
He said that of the P10 billion, P6 billion was earmarked for soft loans for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the tourism sector, and P3 billion would be given to the Department of Labor and Employment for displaced tourism workers.
He said P1 billion would be given to the Department of Public Works and Highways for tourism infrastructure.
Drilon also said there was allocation for COVID-19 special risk allowance for public and private health workers directly involved in attending to COVID-19 patients.
He said this would be P10,000 monthly in the duration of the pandemic.
He said a P1 million financial assistance would be given to the family of a health worker who would die from COVID-19.
A health worker who is critical COVID-19 case will get P100,000 financial help and P15,000 for mild cases.
This is retroactive to February 1, 2020 and exempted from tax.
On the other hand, Sen. Grace Poe said displaced public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers made hungry and homeless by the COVID-19 lockdown would be among those given priority for assistance with a P5.58 billion funding under the Bayanihan 2 bill.
The bill has incorporated provisions for loan facility, fuel vouchers, facilitation of contracting of PUVs as government service vehicles, among others.
“We agreed to provide the much-needed support to displaced workers in the transport sector, particularly when it comes to contracting vehicles by the government. So, that will be a big portion of the funding,” said Poe, chair of the Senate public services committee.
Meanwhile, Sen. Christopher Go urged the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to offer new loans to members to cushion the adverse effects of COVID-19 pandemic.
Go appealed to GSIS to establish loan and other relief programs with flexible payment terms that might help its members manage the financial and economic fallout of the pandemic.
In a brief response, GSIS President and General Manager Rolando Macasaet said the agency had enough funds to offer loan programs to members in response.
“This is the time to help our countrymen to get out of poverty due to COVID-19,” also said Macasaet.
Go also encouraged a tuition loan program to help families pay for school fees, and an e-transition loan program for public school teachers to purchase laptops and other gadgets in aid of the transition to online learning.
Heeding his call, the agency developed the GSIS Financial Assistance Loan – Educational Loan (GFAL-EL) program to help its members pay up to 100% of their beneficiaries’ tuition fees and other school expenses.
Fast food chains
In related developments, Metro Manila mayors have agreed to allow 24/7 operations of restaurants and other food chains in the metropolis to address fast food mails.
Metropolitan Manila Development Authority General Manager Jojo Garcia said Thursday that restaurants and fast-food chains were already authorized to do deliveries even during wee hours.
Garcia said this was specifically for health workers and other night shift employees who need to eat while at work.
Restaurant workers as well as delivery partners are exempted from the longer curfew hours which start at 8 p.m. and end at 5 a.m. implemented across Metro Manila as the region returned to general community quarantine yesterday.