Several senators in the coming 19th Congress have aired their support for a new stimulus measure, which President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. confirmed is part of his priority legislation to expedite the country’s recovery from COVID-19 and provide funds for its pandemic response, to be dubbed as “Bayan Bangon Muli (BBM).”
Marcos has repeatedly said he will look at the 2023 national budget to “find sufficient funds” for the proposed economic relief package.
The new President also said he plans to “move some public expenditures away from non-investment expenditures to more investment expenditures” to revitalize the economy.
Incoming Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, who ran under the banner of Marcos and Vice President Sara Duterte, recalled that passing another “Bayanihan Law” or a stimulus bill that seeks to help the country recover from the COVID-19 pandemic is one of his campaign promises in the recent elections.
“My campaign promise is to pass a Bayanihan 3 package to provide funding assistance to distressed industries such as Tourism and the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that were affected by the pandemic. So, the request of our President to pass a stimulus package is part of my legislative priority as a re-elected senator of the 19th Congress and will have my full support,” Zubiri said.
He said this measure is badly needed “to jumpstart our economic recovery and push us to become an Asian Tiger in the region.”
Sen. Sonny Angara, who will retain his chairmanship of the Senate Finance committee in the new Congress, has responded positively to the call of Marcos for a new stimulus package.
He assured his help in funding programs and policies crucial to the delivery of public services.
Under his watch as chairperson of the Finance committee in the last Congress, the Senate passed two Bayanihan laws to complement the government’s response to the pandemic.
Angara was the sponsor of the proposed 2022 national budget, which became law as the General Appropriations Act of 2022. Marcos said there was little to work with under the present budget.
Due to this, he cited the need to look to the new national budget for 2023, which lawmakers are presently crafting.
Angara committed to working closely with the President and his Cabinet to guarantee the funding of programs and policies crucial to the delivery of public services.
“We, in the Senate, are cognizant of the huge mandate the President has received and the need to fulfill promises to the people,” noted Angara.
Returning Senator Loren Legarda also vowed to support a measure that has sure funding to help MSMEs in the country.
“I support the proposed stimulus package to be given to small businesses severely affected by COVID. I will make sure that the MSME law will be adequately funded so MSME programs of various government agencies will be effectively implemented,” said Legarda.
She promised to rally behind the economic empowerment of every Filipino family.
With Marcos Jr. eyeing the funding of the stimulus measure through the 2023 national budget, Legarda said she will support the immediate approval of the next year’s General Appropriations Bill (GAB) but subject to necessary amendments.
“Yes, of course. We will study the National Expenditures Program, see if it’s aligned to a pandemic recovery budget, and amend when needed,” she said.
Another returning senator, erstwhile Sorsogon Governor Francis Escudero, said a stimulus bill is exactly what the country needs, especially in agriculture and MSMEs.
“This is exactly what we need… election spending spurred and increased our Gross Domestic Product and must be sustained in order to spur the economy further and create needed stable jobs domestically,” he said.
Aside from borrowing, Escudero said the Philippines can source its funding through sales of unnecessary government assets, improvement in the collection of current taxes, fees, and charges, curbing or lessening corruption, and proper allocation of scarce resources through the annual budget.
Escudero said he looks forward to working with like-minded and development/reform-oriented people in government, regardless of affiliation or color they may have had or carried in the last elections, and called on our people to do the same.
“Our country and people deserve nothing less,” he said.
For Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, he said the general ideas for the stimulus bill “are good but we have to look at the details.”
Pimentel, who is reportedly joining Senator-elect Risa Hontiveros in the opposition in the next Congress, vowed to scrutinize and debate a stimulus bill that seeks to provide funds for the incoming administration’s pandemic response.
He also expressed reservations to the proposed title of the measure. He said the passage of the measure floated by House Majority Leader and returning Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez would depend on the details of the bill.
“It boils down to the details. Even the title, we should take a look at it,” said Pimentel. “ Nakasama ba ang bayan ngayon? (Is the country in a bad way today?)”
Romualdez emphasized that under the BBM Bill, the President can harness the resources available to him during this closing period of 2022 and address the needed measures for the pandemic, hopefully, endemic stage of this COVID issue.
Another re-elected Senator, Sherwin Gatchalian, who ran under the BBM-Sara UniTeam, said he will check the details of the stimulus bill proposed in the 19th Congress.
“In theory, I support a stimulus program that will not be adverse to our fiscal standing,” Gatchalian said.
As to Senator-elect Robin Padilla who wants the chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments, he will just focus on his advocacy for the country’s shift.
The senators also expressed their support for an early passage of the 2023 national budget.
Zubiri said he will support the aim of the next administration for an early passage of the 2023 budget.
“We will act swiftly on the 2023 National Expenditure Program (NEP), “ said Zubiri.
Angara would aid the incoming Marcos administration to work on the upcoming 2023 national budget bill.
On the other hand, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go vowed to continue the Duterte administration’s fight against illegal drugs and corruption.
He emphasized the importance of maintaining the government’s hard stance against illegal drugs even when Duterte leaves office in order to prevent a resurgence.
Go underlined the government’s resolve to strengthen the ongoing campaign against illegal drugs while also providing a comprehensive approach for individuals and their families who have been victims of illegal drugs to the end of Duterte’s term.
The former presidential aide—before becoming a senator—also vowed to fight corruption.
Gatchalian echoed Go’s commitment to ward off the continuing pervasiveness of widespread corruption in government by eyeing to pursue policies that mandate the shift to a digital government.
He said this would mean accelerating digitization and digitalization efforts in government processes and transactions, including the collection of tax payments and other regulatory fees.
“No need to go to government offices to fall in line. The problem starts here,” the senator said.
“If there is queuing in government transactions, there will surely be fixers and we already know what will happen if there are fixers,” said Gatchalian.
He noted that all government collections should be paperless or done through electronic means.
“It’s high time that we push the digital transformation of government services,” he added.
According to Gatchalian, it is also high time to restore the level of trust and confidence of the public in those in government and uphold the dignity of civil servants.