THE House of Representatives on Thursday approved on second reading the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) which sets aside an additional P162 billion for the government’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response for this year.
Congressmen approved House Bill No. 6953 in response to President Duterte’s call in his last State of the Nation Address for Congress to help prevent the spread of the virus and speed up the country’s recovery from the pandemic.
Among the components of the P162-billion Bayanihan 2 are P10 billion for expanded testing and treatment of patients; P10.5 billing for the Department Health for additional personnel and benefits, and fund augmentation to hospitals; P3 billion for the acquisition of face masks and other personal protective equipment items; P4 billion for temporary isolation and quarantine facilities, P20 billion for cash-for-work for displaced workers, and P51 billion to help micro, small and medium businesses.
The bill also includes P20 billion for cash or interest subsidies for farmers, P10 billion for the transportation industry, P10 billion for the tourism sector, P3 billion for state universities and colleges, P600 million for subsidies and allowances to qualified students of public and private tertiary schools, P300 million as subsidies to affected teaching and non-teaching personnel of public and private schools, P12 billion for the Department of Social Welfare and Development, P4 billion for the Department of Education, P1.5 billion for local government units, and P820 million for the repatriation of overseas Filipino workers.
The proposed law is a continuation of the Bayanihan to Heal as One law which give the President additional authority to address the pandemic and distribute funds to poor families.
The Senate’s version which was already approved on third and final reading sets aside some P160 billion for COVID response. Congressmen and senators are expected to iron out the differences between their versions of the bill in the bicameral level.
In a manifesto of support, various political parties, including those from the opposition Liberal Party (LP) who are allied with the House majority bloc and party-list groups vowed to vote for the measure’s passage.
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, majority leader Martin Romualdez, and deputy speakers Luis Raymund Villafuerte of Camarines Sur and Paolo Duterte of Davao City led the signatories.
Deputy majority leader Wilter Wee Palma II of Zamboanga Sibugay signed for Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD), deputy speakers Aurelio Gonzales Jr. of Pampanga, Raneo Abu of Batangas and Sharon Garin of AAMBIS OWA party-list, for the ruling PDP-Laban, Nacionalista Party and party-list groups, respectively; Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. of Cavite for the National Unity Party (NUP), Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice for LP, and Valenzuela Rep. Wesley Gatchalian for the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC).
“Heeding the President’s call, we now declare our commitment to unify our respective political parties and party-list organizations in order for the House to pass the Bayanihan 2 bill at the soonest possible time,” they said.
The House and political leaders declared their solidarity with the national leadership and the nation in general “as we continue our collective action to contain the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease-19) in the country, with the hope to mitigate the pandemic’s impact on people’s lives.”
They said the law empowered the national government and local government units “to respond to the crisis, enabling us to slow down the rate of infection and spare our people from starvation caused by community quarantines.”
“Despite our gallant stand against COVID-19, the global health crisis continues to wreak havoc on our people’s health and has brought our country’s economic progress to a screeching halt. As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise, some business establishments have resorted to closure and millions of Filipinos face the threat of unemployment,” they said.