MANILA – The House of Representatives on Monday approved on third and final reading a measure that would provide for the country’s response and recovery interventions for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
With 242 affirmative votes, six negative votes, and no abstention, the chamber approved House Bill 6953 or the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2), which is one of the legislative priorities President Rodrigo Duterte enumerated in his fifth State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) on July 27.
The bill proposes a PHP162-billion standby fund to support response measures to address the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a speech, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said Congress crafted Bayanihan 2 not just a reaction to the ravages of Covid-19, but also as a response to the bigger challenge of “remaking our society and spreading the wealth” out to other regions.
“We want Bayanihan 2 to be a living piece of legislation that will empower our industries and revitalize sectors of society that have been decimated by the virus or were otherwise forgotten or neglected in the past,” he added.
Cayetano said the three main sectors, namely, agriculture, tourism, and manufacturing, will form the “spear-tip” of the country’s recovery effort.
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, and PHP820 million for the programs of the Department of Foreign Affairs for migrant workers. (PNA)