TAGUIG Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano yesterday pooh-poohed Speaker Lord Allan Velasco’s filing of House Bill No.8628 or the proposed Bayanihan to Arise As One Act (Bayanihan 3) as he batted for the passage of a measure which seeks to provide a one-time P10,000 cash assistance to families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Velasco and Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo filed the proposed Bayanihan 3 measure last Thursday, proposing the setting up of a P420-billion stimulus fund to further help stimulate the recovery of the country’s economy, which has been reeling since last year under the heavy impacts of the pandemic.
Cayetano said his House Bill No. 8597, or the proposed Bangon Pamilyang Pilipino (BPP) Assistance Program, is a better alternative to Velasco’s measure.
Cayetano said HBN 8597 will provide the beneficiaries with additional assistance in recognition of the effects of the pandemic, the economic setbacks and the hardships brought by the previous year.
“I urge my colleagues to pass that (HB 8597) as soon as possible so that we can quell the hunger in the bellies of our countrymen, while we are tackling this bigger financial package,” he said in a Facebook post, adding that the bill which he filed last February 1 also aims to empower Filipino families, increase household consumption, and boost the nation’s economic activity.
Cayetano said that on top of the pending lengthy deliberations on Velasco’s measure, the country’s economic managers and the Executive Department “still have a few concerns and objections about the package, especially on its fiscal impact.”
“Marami na po ang naghihirap sa ating mga kababayan at hindi na sila makapag-aantay sa matagal na mga debate (Many of our countrymen are already suffering and they cannot wait while the bill is being debated on),” he said.
“I have always believed that the Filipino family deserves the best, and this (Bayanihan 3) is a step in that direction. But the reality is, it might not come soon enough for those who are struggling to make ends meet now,” Cayetano said.
Under Velasco’s proposed Bayanihan 3, another P108 billion for additional social amelioration will be distributed to impacted households through programs of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
There will likewise be a P52 billion allocation for subsidies to small business for wages and other worker-related expenses, P100 billion for the capacity-building of businesses in critically impacted sectors, P70 billion for the provision of assistance and capacity-building to farmers, livestock producers and fishermen; P30 billion for the implementation of unemployment assistance and cash-for-work programs under the Department of Labor and Employment, and P30 billion for internet allowances to primary, secondary and tertiary students and teachers in public and private educational institutions.
There will be another P5 billion to the Department of Public Works and Highways for the rehabilitation of typhoon-affected areas, including the repair, reconstruction and/or construction of flood control works, roads, bridges, public buildings and other damaged public works, to be distributed proportionately among provinces and cities affected; and P25 billion to the Department of Health for the procurement of COVID-19 medication and vaccines, and to finance logistics, information awareness campaigns, and other related operational expenses.
THANKS, BUT NO THANKS
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that while Malacañang appreciates Velasco’s and Quimbo’s filing of the proposed Bayanihan 3 bill, economic stimulus measures are already in place, including those laid out under the Bayanihan 2 Act and the 2021 budget.
Roque said the current stimulus measures are already enough to spur the economy back to recovery.
“Titingnan po natin dahil hindi pa nga tapos po iyong pagpapatupad ng Bayanihan 2 at saka iyong pagpapatupad po ng 2021 budget (We will see because we have not yet completed the implementation of Bayanihan 2 and the 2021 budget),” Roque said.
President Duterte has extended until June this year the effectivity of the Bayanihan 2, which provided over P165.5 billion for government’s efforts to contain the pandemic and stimulate the economy.
Roque said that if there will be a need for more funding, the executive branch would seek out the economic packages mentioned in the Bayanihan 3 draft.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) welcomed the inclusion of the wage subsidy program in the proposed Bayanihan 3 Act and said this will benefit 30,000 businesses and 1.6 million employees.
In a virtual press briefing, Labor Assistant Secretary Dominique Tutay said they are hoping that the proposed P52 billion wage subsidy program will be retained in the final draft of the measure.
“If I recall it right, it will benefit around 1.6 million workers… it could be around 30,000 establishments under the category of micro, small, and medium enterprises,” Tutay said.
Under the proposed wage subsidy program, the labor official said the government will subsidize a portion of the wage of the workers in the form of the payroll system. In exchange, participating companies must retain or preserve the employment of a specific percentage of the company’s employees.
“This will improve the employment situation because our intended outcome is to preserve the existing employment of our workers. If businesses are continuous, then the employment of our workers are also continuous,” Tutay said.
Tutay noted that the DOLE has already made a similar proposed program last year but was thumbed down. – With Jocelyn Montemayor and Gerard Naval