MANILA – The House of Representatives on Wednesday night approved on second reading a measure that would provide for the country’s response and recovery interventions for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
The chamber passed through voice voting House Bill 6953 or the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2), which is one of the legislative priorities of President Rodrigo Duterte enumerated in his fifth State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) on July 27.
This is the second installment of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which gave Duterte 31 emergency powers to address the Covid-19 crisis in the country. The law already expired on June 25.
The bill proposes a PHP162-billion standby fund to support response measures to address the Covid-19 pandemic.
Under the measure, PHP10 billion shall be appropriated as subsidy to the National Health Insurance Program of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to be used solely to cover Covid-19 expanded testing and Covid-19 confinements.
A total of PHP10.5 billion shall be allocated to the Department of Health for continuous employment of emergency human resources for health, risk allowances for both public and private health care workers (HCWs), free life insurance for all HCWs, HCW compensation for death and critical illness, and augmentation for hospital operations.
The measure also provides for the allocation of PHP20 billion for the implementation of appropriate cash-for-work programs for displaced workers amid the pandemic.
A total of PHP12 billion shall be used to finance the programs of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, including the emergency subsidy for areas placed on hard lockdown and the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS) program, among others.
A total of PHP51 billion will be given to government financial institutions (GFIs) as capital infusion for the grant of low-interest loans to micro, small and medium enterprises and other critically-impacted businesses.
A total of PHP3 billion shall be appropriated for the procurement of face masks, personal protective equipment (PPE) sets, shoe covers and face shields to be provided to all barangay health workers, barangay officials, and other indigent persons that need protection to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Meanwhile, PHP4 billion shall be used to finance the construction of temporary medical isolation and quarantine facilities, field hospitals, dormitories for front-liners, and for the expansion of government hospital capacity all over the country.
Also included in the funding are various forms of financial assistance for affected sectors: PHP20 billion for low-interest credit for the agriculture sector; PHP10 billion for programs for the transportation sector; and PHP10 billion for tourism development programs.
For education, PHP3 billion shall be provided for smart, ICT-ready education facilities in state universities and colleges; PHP4 billion to assist the Department of Education to prepare classrooms for digital education; PHP600 million worth of subsidies for qualified students in private tertiary education institutions; PHP300 million worth of subsidies for personnel of private tertiary education institutions and part-time personnel of state universities and colleges; and PHP1 billion worth of additional scholarship funds for Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
Other funding provisions include PHP1.5 billion worth of assistance for local government units, PHP180 million to finance athletes whose allowance were reduced due to the pandemic, PHP820 million funding for the programs of the Department of Foreign Affairs for migrant workers. (PNA)