P400B sought for Bayanihan III bill

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    MARIKINA Rep. Stella Quimbo yesterday filed the proposed Bayanihan III Act which seeks another P400 billion funding to strengthen the government’s efforts and response to the ongoing public health crisis which has been worsened by three successive typhoons that battered most parts of Luzon.

    Quimbo, in filing House Bill No. 8031, wants to ensure that “help is available under the state’s social amelioration program, rehabilitate areas damaged by natural calamities, sustain delivery of basic goods and services, implement high-impact infrastructure projects, assist businesses to keep them afloat, and bring the economy on the right track.”

    Along with these, the Liberal Party lawmaker said this will put to task the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) to craft a long-term plan which shall be resilient from future shocks such as pandemics and typhoons.

    It also mandates NEDA to review the Flood Management Master Plan for Metro Manila and surrounding areas to improve disaster risk reduction and resilience.

    “P400 billion will be a huge help to allow the country to get back on its feet. It’s a rescue boat for Filipinos flooded by crises. Bayanihan III will ensure funds for critical programs,” said Quimbo, a member of the minority bloc.

    According to the Marikina lawmaker, money allotted to fight COVID-19 under the 2021 spending plan is minuscule, representing only P248 billion out of the total P838.4 billion earmarked for the pandemic response that also included some P590 billion for infrastructure under the government’s centerpiece program Build, Build, Build.

    “This is too small compared to what we have lost. It’s like giving paracetamol to someone recovering from cancer. The Philippines will not be able to recover from these typhoons and the pandemic if the budget will be this small,” said Quimbo.

    The lawmaker said the projection of the country’s economic manager of a decline of 5.5 percent in the economy is “highly unlikely” considering the contraction of 11.5 percent in the third quarter and 16.9 percent in the second quarter, based on November 10 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.

    “Some experts have estimated an 8 to 10 percent economic slowdown this year. If this is right, P3.3 trillion will be lost. Yet the 2021 national budget is designed with a 5.5-percent projection in mind,” she pointed out.

    But for the country to fully rise from the COVID crisis, Bayanihan III ensures adequate funding for vaccine procurement and steady stream of “ayuda” to low-income families, she said.

    Quimbo’s proposal also hopes to provide calamity intervention measures such as cash-for-work, emergency subsidies, adequate infrastructure funds for typhoon-stricken areas, among others.

    Quimbo also recognizes that assistance to businesses are crucial to job preservation, thus worker subsidies are provided in the bill which shall cover pay for testing and sick leaves, among others, capacity-building programs for critically impacted businesses to assist them in adapting to the new normal.

    Apart from the enumerated interventions, the Bayanihan III seeks to extend the effectivity of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan II) as its provisions remain to be critical for recovery beyond December 2020.

    Meanwhile, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, during the Laging Handa public briefing, assured the public that the government still has the funds to attend to the needs of the public and the rehabilitation of the country following the devastation left by the series of typhoons in parts of the country.

    Avisado said the release of the funds will be taking some time, though, because it has to undergo government processes and would still need the approval of the President.

    He said local government units (LGUs) also have to submit requests for the additional funds to start the process.

    Avisado said the DBM is set to release the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) and Notice of Cash Allocation (NCA) for some P1.5 billion worth of financial aid and augmentation to the calamity funds of provinces, cities, and municipalities from regions IV-A (Calabarzon), IV-B (Mimaropa), and V (Bicol) that were affected by typhoons Quinta and Rolly.

    He said the allocations are equivalent to one percent of the annual internal revenue allotment of the LGUs.

    Avisado said in Calabarzon, the province of Quezon will get the highest allocation worth P225.7 million while Oriental Mindoro will get the highest funding in Mimaropa, with P115.8 million, and Albay will get the biggest fund in Bicol with P347 million.

    He said similar financial assistance funds would be provided to places affected by typhoon Ulysses.

    He said the amount would be based on the population and extent of damage that has been affected in the area. – With Jocelyn Montemayor