Senate ratifies final version of Bayanihan 2
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate ratified on Thursday the final version of the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or the Bayanihan 2 bill, only a few hours after the bicameral conference committee of Congress approved the measure’s reconciled version.
The Bayanihan 2 bill, seen to replace the expired Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, lays out the country’s COVID-19 response and recovery plan and allocates funds to help struggling sectors cope with the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
In an interview with reporters before the Senate’s ratification, Senator Sonny Angara said the Bayanihan 2 will have a regular appropriation of P140 billion while P25 billion will serve as standby funding.
“Merong standby appropriations of P25 billion if the funds become available, meaning, if nagkaroon ng savings or nagkaroon ng additional revenue sources,” he said. Angara chairs the Senate finance committee and led the Senate contingent in the bicameral conference committee.
“We had to reconcile the two at dumami yung items so there’s a lot of new items in the reconciled bicam version, which will eventually become the law hopefully,” he added.
Under the reconciled version, a P15,000-cash aid will be granted to healthcare workers who contract a mild infection of COVID-19 in the line of duty.
A special risk allowance of P10,000 will also be given to public and private health workers catering to COVID-19 patients.
Further, the Bayanihan 2 bill will earmark P3 billion for the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) sets while P5 billion will be allocated for contact tracing efforts.
The Bayanihan 2 will also have a P10-billion standby fund for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines once these become available.
Angara said the bicameral conference committee also heeded the request of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging and Infectious Disease to provide funding for additional isolation and quarantine facilities as well as dormitories for medical frontliners.
House Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte, chair of the House panel to the bicameral conference committee, told reporters in a separate message that funding for additional hiring of healthcare workers was also included in the reconciled measure.
Struggling sectors will be given assistance under the measure, with P9.5 billion going to the transportation sector.
Some P13 billion is also earmarked for assistance to workers displaced by the health crisis while P8.9 billion will serve as an aid for the education sector, which includes one-time cash assistance to teaching and non-teaching personnel in private schools as well as to part-time faculty members in state universities and colleges.
The bill will also provide funding for COVID-19 testing and loan condonation for agrarian reform beneficiaries.
Angara also said assistance for the tourism industry and its stakeholders remains “intact and preserved” under the reconciled version of the Bayanihan 2.
Prior to the approval of the measure’s reconciled version, one of the contentious provisions under the Bayanihan 2 was the P10-billion funding for the tourism sector, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said in an earlier radio interview.
But after the bicam, Drilon said senators and House lawmakers were able to arrive at an agreement regarding the aid for the tourism industry.
“Tourism sector got [P10 billion],” he said in a message to reporters.
He said that of the P10 billion, P6 billion is earmarked for soft loans for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the tourism sector, P3 billion will be given to the Department of Labor and Employment for displaced tourism workers.
Meanwhile, P1 billion will be given to the Department of Public Works and Highways for tourism infrastructure.
A 60-day moratorium on loan payments was also included in the reconciled version of the Bayanihan 2 bill.
The bicameral conference committee also adopted a provision in the measure that suspends for three years most of the permits needed for building new cell towers to improve telecommunications in the country.
With the Senate ratifying the reconciled version of the measure, it only needs the ratification of the House of Representatives before it can be transmitted to President Rodrigo Duterte for signature. [ac]
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