Senate OKs on 2nd reading ‘Bayanihan 2’ providing for P140-B standby fund for COVID-19 response
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate on Wednesday approved on second reading a bill providing for the Philippines’ response and recovery plan as the country continues to reel from the coronavirus pandemic.
During the plenary session, the chamber approved on second reading Senate Bill No. 1564 or the proposed “Bayanihan to Recover as One Act” which seeks to establish a mechanism to “accelerate the recovery and bolster the resiliency of the Philippine economy.
The measure, which will be effective until Sept30, 2020, once enacted into law, puts in place numerous COVID-19 response and recovery interventions to “reduce the adverse impact” of the health crisis.
It also establishes a P140-billion standby fund for the implementation of the following measures to respond to the pandemic:
- P10 billion for the procurement of COVID-19 testing and extraction kits to increase capacity and enhance the country’s health care services
- P15 billion for the implementation of the cash-for-work program and Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD)
- P17 billion for the unemployment or involuntary separation assistance for displaced workers or employees
- P50 billion for infusion capital of government financial institutions (GFIs)
- P17 billion for the provision of direct cash subsidy, interest- free loans to qualified agri-fishery enterprises and farmers and fisherfolk
- P17 billion to fund of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to assist “critically impacted” businesses in the transportation industry
- P10 billion for the Department of Tourism to assist “critically impacted” businesses in the tourism industry
- P3 billion to assist state universities and colleges in the development of smart campuses
- P1 billion for Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) scholarships for displaced workers and overseas Filipino workers
Under the bill, the country’s COVID-19 task force would be required to adopt a protocol on the conduct of PCR testing for the new coronavirus “in full cooperation” with the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and the Bureau of Immigration (BI).
The bill likewise requires the adoption and implementation of measures to avert further transmission and spread of the new coronavirus through “effective education, detection, protection, and treatment.”
Under the measure, the percentage of the population to be tested for COVID-19 should be in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) standards and global benchmark and in areas identified by the DOH and the DILG as “epicenters” of COVID-19 infections.
This should also cover areas “where higher possibility of transmission of COVID-19 may occur or have occurred.”
It also mandates the DOH to adopt a “uniform and consistent reporting standard in a language understandable by the general public.”
The measure would mandate testing for both public and private workers every 15 days “to ensure their protection.”
Further, it would require the government to shoulder all medical expenses of both public and private health workers in case of COVID-19 exposure or any work-related injury or disease during the pandemic.
Under the bill, an emergency subsidy will be provided for low-income households in areas under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and to households with recently-returned overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
“Wage subsidies would also be continued but in this bill, we want to ensure that the sectors that were not covered before but were severely affected by the pandemic would be included this time around,” Senator Sonny Angara, sponsor of the bill, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, a one-month emergency subsidy will be given to low-income households who are qualified but were not able to avail of this in the past three months.
The bill would also provide for unemployment or involuntary separation assistance amounting P10,000 for workers or employees displaced by the pandemic.
This assistance covers probationary, project, seasonal, contractual and casual employees in private health institutions, tourism, culture and arts, creative industries, among other sectors.
The bill will provide for the grant of tuition subsidies to students “who are currently not receiving any assistance from government educational subsidy or voucher programs but are now facing financial difficulties brought about by work stoppage and closure of establishments” due to government-imposed lockdowns.
Teachers and non-teaching personnel in private schools and tertiary education institutions, as well as part-time faculty members in state universities and colleges, will be given one-time cash assistance amounting to P10,000 due “to the deferred opening or reduced offering of classes during the (community quarantine).”
The measure would also provide for loan assistance, subsidies, discounts, or grants to schools, colleges, technical-vocational institutions, teachers, faculties and students for the purchase of distance learning tools such as computers, laptops, tablets, and other information communication and technology devices and equipment necessary that would be used for classes and learning materials under alternative delivery modes of teaching and learning in the “new normal.”
No more criminal provision
Unlike Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, the proposed “Bayanihan 2” no longer has a provision listing punishable acts since these are already penalized under existing laws.
Section 6 of R.A. 11469 enumerated several acts considered illegal and are punishable under the act with imprisonment of two months or a fine of not less than P10,000 but not more than P1 million, or both, to be determined by the court.
These include (1) LGU officials disobeying national government policies; (2) hospital owners who refuse to operate in accordance with the directive of the President; (3) hoarding, profiteering, price manipulation, product deceptions, cartels, etc.; (4) refusal to prioritize and accept essential contracts for materials and services; (5) refusal to provide grace periods to loan payments; (6) spread of fake news; and (7) failure to comply with reasonable limitations on the operation of certain transportation sector.
Senator Franklin Drilon, who proposed the repeal of the provision, said its deletion “will avoid the notion that the Bayanihan Law is anti-poor because it is the poor and the vulnerable that are victims of the iniquity in its implementation.”
Not an extension
Before the second reading approval of the bill, Senate President Vicente Sotto III told reporters in an online interview that the proposed Bayanihan 2 is not an extension of R.A. 11469.
“We are passing a new law,” he said.
Asked whether President Rodrigo Duterte would certify the proposed Bayanihan 2 as urgent, Sotto surmised that Malacañang would “want to read it first.”
“We’ll have word after they go through it,” he added.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.