Recto bill: Grant Duterte P600-B standby spending authority, extend Bayanihan law
MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto has filed a bill that would not only extend the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act for another three months but would also grant President Rodrigo Duterte a P600-billion standby spending authority.
Recto filed Senate Bill No. 1561 which seeks to extend said law until September 30, 2020 and provide “mechanisms to accelerate the recovery of the Philippine economy” amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“The impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, both in terms of human life and economic growth, is quite staggering. Thus, this moment in our history is touted to be man’s darkest hour and perhaps, the bleakest period in this generation’s lifetime,” the bill’s explanatory note said.
“The bill grants the President a standby spending authority of PHP 600,000,000,000 the release of which, shall be subject to the collection of increased revenues, new tax or non-tax revenues, or available proceeds for approved borrowings,” it added.
The said amount would be used to fund wage subsidies to displaced workers, “large-scale” COVID-19 testing, and assistance to impacted sectors, among others.
Among the mitigating measures Recto proposed under his bill includes the allocation of P30 billion for wage subsidies to be granted industries directly impacted by the pandemic and those that support priority programs of the government.
Covered by the bill is an “employment intervention” in the form of a cash for work program where P20 billion would fund the provision of temporary jobs to “those who have been displaced by the closure of businesses as a result of the economic downturn.”
The jobs may include the temporary hiring of contact tracers, the bill added.
Recto’s bill also seeks for a standby appropriation of P70 billion for the “capital infusion” to government banks.
Of the amount, Recto proposed that P20 billion be allocated for the expanded guarantee program through the Philippine Guarantee Corporation (PGC) such as increased maximum loan guarantee; reduced eligibility requirements and guarantee fees.
Meanwhile, P35 billion and P15 billion would be allocated to the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines, respectively, to support the grant of low-interest loans for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), agri-fishery enterprises, primary tourism enterprises, export and import industries, as well as non-essential businesses.
The measure also proposes an P80-billion allocation for programs and projects to assist health workers, displaced overseas Filipino workers (OFW), displaced employees and workers in the formal and informal economy, displaced teaching and non-teaching personnel employed; employees and workers in the public transport industry; and other critically-impacted sectors.
“Ultimately, the bill seeks to save lives and protect incomes as well as strengthen the resilience of our socioeconomic institutions in dealing with the pandemic,” Recto said.
“These interventions are being sought to soften the impact of a projected economic downturn, and to accelerate the socioeconomic recovery of the country,” he added.
Bayanihan law extension
With the proposed extension of the Bayanihan law, Recto said this would “allow the government to pursue aggressively its efforts to contain the transmission of COVID 19 as well as to provide stimulus as the economy starts to open up.”
Under the current law, the additional powers granted to President Rodrigo Duterte to address the coronavirus pandemic will expire by June.
The Bayanihan law was approved by Congress in an hours-long special session on March 23. Duterte signed the bill into law on March 25.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri has recently filed a similar measure also seeking to extend the validity of the said law for another three months.
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