House approves measures to extend use of Bayanihan 2 funds

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A measure further extending the release, obligation, and disbursement of funds under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2 has hurdled second reading approval at the House of Representatives.

During Wednesday’s plenary session, the chamber approved through voice voting House Bill 9538, which seeks to extend anew the validity of funds under Bayanihan 2 until December 31.

It proposes to amend Republic Act 11519, which extended the availability of Bayanihan 2 funds appropriated until June 30, 2021.

Bayanihan 2 is a P165.5-billion economic stimulus measure seeking to aid the pandemic-hit sectors.

According to a report released by the independent group International Budget Partnership (IBP), the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act or Bayanihan 1 has been hailed as one of the best practices worldwide by any government as a response to the ongoing coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

The report released last May highlighted the Philippines’ efforts to ensure accountability through Bayanihan 1, specifically its provisions “ensuring weekly reports on Covid-19 response actions” to oversee the law’s implementation.

The IBP revealed that only four countries, including the Philippines, were rated as having an adequate level of accountability in early Covid-19 fiscal policy responses. The other countries were Australia, Norway and Peru.

Former House Speaker and Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano said Bayanihan 1 was the country’s first economic recovery plan to help curb the adverse effects of the pandemic.

Cayetano said the law allowed the national government to reallocate, realign, and reprogram P275 billion from the annual budget in response to the pandemic.

It also provided for the purchase of testing kits and medical supplies, as well as the building of quarantine facilities and isolation centers for those suspected to have contracted the virus.

He further noted the Bayanihan 2, or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, helped usher the country into the better normal.

Bayanihan 3 as lifeline measure

The House of Representatives this week approved the P401-billion stimulus package under Bayanihan to Arise as One bill or Bayanihan 3 with 238 affirmative votes, no negative votes, and one abstention.

Marikina City Rep. Stella Quimbo said the Bayanihan 3 provides the lifeline “ayuda” (cash aid) that will cushion the blow of the huge economic downturn experienced by the country last year.

Quimbo was referring to the two rounds of financial aid worth P1,000 to be granted to each Filipino. The cash subsidy program shall have a total funding of P216 billion.

“The suffering of ordinary Filipinos will be alleviated if we provide them with P1,000 per head. This P1,000 can be used to buy food or medicine. No one will be left behind because the cash aid would be for all, regardless of age or economic status,” Quimbo said.

Support to businesses, Quimbo said, is also a crucial component of the recently approved bill.

She highlighted the well-targeted assistance in Bayanihan 3 for critically-affected sectors, including wage subsidies with a funding of P20 billion, assistance to displaced workers at P25 billion, assistance to the agri-fishery sector and cooperatives at P30 billion, and medical assistance to indigents at P9 billion.

Other assistance in the measure are for national nutrition, cooperatives, basic education, and pension and gratuity fund.

“This will ensure that as we move forward, no one gets left behind,” she said.

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