The Senate on Thursday evening ratified the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2 with a PHP 165.5 billion budget allowing the government to continue its COVID-19 response programs to help stimulate various sectors as they recover from the drastic impact of the pandemic.
Senate Committee on Finance chairperson Sonny Angara said both chambers of Congress agreed on the PHP140 billion that will come from the general appropriations budget while PHP 25.5 billion which will serve as a standby authority that can be used once additional government revenues become available.
Last July, President Rodrigo Duterte urged Congress to pass the said law during his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA).
The PHP 140-billion regular appropriation is broken down as follows:
- PHP 3 billion for the procurement of face masks, PPEs, shoe covers, and face shields
- PHP 4.5 billion for the construction of temporary medical isolation and quarantine facilities, field hospitals, dormitories, and for the expansion of gov’t hospital capacity
- PHP 4.5 billion for Office of Civil Defense or NDRRMC isolation facilities and other requirements including billing of hotels, food and transportation used by COVID-19 patients
- PHP 13.5 billion for the DOH to employ emergency Human Resources for Health
- PHP 820 million as a fund for Overseas Filipinos under the Department of Foreign Affairs
- PHP 13 billion for the government’s cash-for-work program and other support programs for impacted sectors
- PHP 600M as subsidies and allowances for students severely impacted by the pandemic
- PHP 300M as subsidies and allowances to teaching and non-teaching personnel, and party-time faculty in SUCs
- PHP 180M as allowance for our national athletes and coaches
- PHP 39.472B as capital infusion to government banks, broken down as follows: P10B for the DTI Small Business Corporation (SBCorp)—P4B of which will be devoted for low-interest loans to MSMEs, cooperatives, hospitals, and OFWs, and P6B for tourism; P18.4725B for the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP); P6B for the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP); and, PHP 5B for the Philippine Guarantee Corporation
- PHP 24B as assistance to the agricultural sector and the Plant, Plant, Plant initiative under the Department of Agriculture
- PHP 9.5B in assistance to the transportation industry
- PHP 4B for the tourism industry, and another P100M for tourist guides training and subsidies
- PHP 3B for the development of smart campuses across the country
- PHP 1B for TESDA Scholarships
- PHP 6B for DSWD’s assistance to individuals in crisis situations
- PHP 4B for the DepEd’s implementation of digital education
- PHP 1.5B as assistance to LGUs, with another P2B as subsidy for the payment of interest on loans secured by LGUs from government banks
- PHP 5B for the DILG to hire more contact tracers
- PHP 2.5M for the computer-based licensure of the Philippine Red Cross
- PHP 10M for the research fund of the Health Technology Assessment Council, which was created under the UHC Law
- PHP 15M for UP Diliman’s Computational Research Lab
Under the PHP 25.5 billion standby fund, PHP 10 billion will be allocated for COVID-19 testing and procurement of vaccines and medicines and PHP 15.5 billion as an additional capital infusion to government banks.
Meanwhile, retained in this proposed second Bayanihan law is the PHP 5,000 to PHP 8,000 cash assistance to low-income households.
However, Angara said it will be limited to those in areas under “specific quarantine conditions” and to households with recently-returned OFWs.
The bill also mandates PHP 15,000 sickness benefit for health workers with mild and moderate COVID-19 infection, and PHP 10,000 special risk allowance for both public and private health workers treating infected patients.
The bill sets penalties as well on discrimination against COVID-19 patients and survivors.
The bicam panel also adopted in the bill granting cash assistance to teaching and non-teaching personnel.
It also approved a 60-day grace period for the payment of all “existing, current, and outstanding loans,” falling due on or before December 31, 2020, irrespective if there is community quarantine or not, will be implemented.
Bayanihan 2 also eased the permit requirement for all infrastructure projects approved by the National Economic Development Authority. Securing permits were also eased for telecommunication companies in constructing new cellular sites.
Furthermore, the bill directs public utilities to implement a minimum 30-day grace period for the payment of fees falling due within the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or modified ECQ without penalties.
Once passed into law, Bayanihan 2 will be effective until December 19, 2020 since it is considered an “emergency measure.”
The authority of the President to realign funds has been retained.
The Office of the President will be required to submit a monthly report to Congress regarding the actions taken pursuant to the bill.
“Hindi na every Monday, monthly na lang ‘yung report pero idinagdag natin ang COA (Commission on Audit). That’s the request of the executive. They want to show also that they’re going to be transparent in the usage of the funds,” Angara said.
“Hindi lang sa Congress ang oversight committee as in Bayanihan 1, inexpand pa ‘yung reportorial requirements even to the Commission on Audit they must report,” he added.