Lawmakers jack up Bayanihan 2 funds to P166B

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    THE budgetary component of the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) has been raised by more than P4 billion, from P162 billion to P166.527 billion in the bicameral level where congressmen and senators have been meeting to iron out their differing versions of the measure.

    Deputy majority leader Rep. Wilter Wee Palma II of Zamboanga Sibugay, who is a member of the House contingent, said the Department of Finance (DOF) will have to look for funding sources since only P140 billion is available in the country’s coffers to be used as COVID response fund.

    “The P20 billion plus will act as standby appropriation. It will be up to the DOF to look for these funds. As lawmakers, our job only is to appropriate,” he said, adding that the proposed law’s effectivity will be only be until December 2020.

    Palma could not say yet how the fund will be divided since “everything is still fluid and any amount may still change (in the bicameral level).”

    Among the components of the House version of Bayanihan 2 based 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 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 House 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 gave the President additional authority to address the pandemic and distribute funds to poor families.

    Palma said the bicameral panel has approved allocations for testing, procurement of masks for the public and personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers, construction of isolation facilities, emergency employment of health workers, subsidy for the repatriation of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), cash-for-work program, support programs for impacted sectors including transportation, subsidies and allowances for students and teachers, and allowance for national athletes and coaches.

    Also approved are funds for capital infusion to government banks, subsidy for agriculture, assistance to the tourism industry (tour guide trainings and subsistence), development of smart campuses, scholarship funds for the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), implementation of the Department of Education’s (DepEd) digital education, hiring of additional teaching personnel, hiring of contact-tracers, assistance to local government units (LGUs), and computer-based application/renewal of licenses from the Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC).

    He said there is also a proposal to empower local government units to realign, reallocate, or augment any of its local funds such as calamity funds to “allow the LGUs to call the shots for themselves.”

    “This will allow them to construct or repurpose facilities that will serve as isolation rooms for incoming LSIs (locally-stranded individuals). These may be set up in each of their barangays. This will help eliminate the problems that were caused by the convergence of people in huge quarantine facilities,” Palma said.