House panel OKs bill for P1.5T economic stimulus fund to curb joblessness
MANILA, Philippines — A House special committee has passed a measure that seeks the allocation of P1.5 trillion to fund infrastructure projects in various priority sectors in a bid to stimulate the economy amid widespread unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Defeat COVID-19 Committee (DCC) on Thursday approved House Bill No. 6709, or “The COVID-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus (CURES) Act of 2020,” aimed to fund the implementation of infrastructure projects in the health, education, agriculture, and local roads/infrastructure livelihood sectors.
Citing data from the Philippine Constructors Association, authors of the bill said that around 1.3 million construction workers were “likely displaced” because of the imposed enhanced community quarantine in Luzon in an effort to curb the spread of the potentially deadly disease.
Also, thousands of overseas Filipino workers who have returned to the country added to the growing number of jobless individuals.
“Under this COVID-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus (CURES) Act of 2020, government infrastructure spending shall be primarily geared towards maximizing the direct and indirect creation and sustaining of jobs particularly in the Philippine rural countryside,” the bill’s explanatory note read.
“Anchored on the premise that the ‘construction phase of infrastructural projects like roads, watershed development, construction of irrigation dams, or powerhouses the poor are provided employment and income-earning opportunities’, the CURES Act of 2020 will prioritize the funding of projects that target infrastructure building down the most basic unit of the political structure — the barangay level,” it added.
The program will be implemented in conjunction with the “Balik Probinsya Program” which sought to decongest Metro Manila, the lawmakers said.
Under the bill, P500 billion shall be appropriated for each year for three fiscal years.
“After three years, Congress shall enact legislation extending or modifying the same or terminating the Fund In the latter case the unobligated balance shall be made available for the general budgetary requirements of the year succeeding its termination,” the bill further stated.
Implementation of projects under the CURES Fund shall be undertaken by national government departments or agencies authorized by law or their respective charters.
“With the CURES Act of 2020, we seek to create millions of jobs that will derive from infrastructure projects in the rural areas and, eventually, lead our nation to the path of economic recovery,” House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, who chairs the DCC, said during the hearing.
“Concomitantly, this strategy aims to provide a solid impetus to the government’s Balik Probinsya Program by generating jobs in the countryside. Kung may mga trabaho po sa probinsiya, siguradong mas pipiliin ng mga kababayan natin na bumalik doon kaysa magutom dito sa Metro Manila,” he added.
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