Bayanihan 3 ‘lifeline’ bill advances in Congress
MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives is now ready for plenary deliberations on the P405.6-billion Bayanihan to Arise As One bill (Bayanihan 3) after the proposal hurdled the appropriations panel on Friday.
The House leadership earlier promised to pass on third and final reading the Bayanihan 3 bill before Congress adjourns on June 5.
The measure—described as a “lifeline” bill by House ways and means committee chair and Albay Rep. Joey Salceda—was unanimously approved despite the absence of a certification of availability of funds from the Bureau of the Treasury. Such document is a requirement for special appropriations bills such as Bayanihan 3 under Article 6, Section 25 of the 1987 Constitution.
Bayanihan 3 is divided into three parts. The bulk of the spending will go to phase one at P167 billion and phase two at P196 billion since the bill proposes to give each Filipino P2,000 as a “basic universal income.”
It also includes P30 billion in emergency assistance to affected households and wage subsidies amounting to P20 billion.
Similar to earlier iterations of the Bayanihan law, it also features P25 billion in aid to displaced or disadvantaged workers that would be implemented in three phases by the Department of Labor and Employment.
Another P54.6 billion is also allotted for the pension and gratuity fund for retired military and uniformed personnel that was earlier removed in the 2021 national budget.
Other aid packages under Bayanihan 3 are: P30 billion for the agrifisheries sector, P10 billion for national nutrition efforts, P5.6 billion to support basic education, P9 billion in medical assistance to indigents program, P5 billion in relief to local government units (LGUs), and P400 million to pay for swab tests of returning seafarers and overseas Filipino workers.
The bill also authorizes LGUs to realign their local funds such as the development fund, Sangguniang Kabataan Fund and special education fund, as well as unused or unreleased subsidies and transfers to finance activities needed to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Joint Executive Legislative Bayanihan Council is also proposed to monitor disbursements under the special appropriations bill and ensure that the money would reach the targeted beneficiaries and that funds would be disbursed in a timely and proper manner.
Salceda, an economist, also emphasized the need for “continued fiscal vigilance” with the special appropriations measure moving forward in Congress.
Reacting to the lack of certification from the Treasury, Davao de Oro Rep. Ruwel Peter Gonzaga, vice chair of the House appropriations panel, said the document was not needed immediately, adding that it could be given during the plenary deliberations.
Other lawmakers like Salceda and AAMBIS-OWA Rep. Sharon Garin, the recently elected chair of the House economic affairs panel, said that the constitutional requirement for a certification on available funds has been met.
Salceda, in a letter to House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, said it was his “studied opinion … that the Bayanihan 3 already complies with the constitutional condition for special appropriations bills and can thus be approved by the House.”
He pointed out that the measure met the constitutional requirement for funding sources, such as unprogrammed funds and savings under the 2021 national budget, pooled savings from the Bayanihan 1 and 2 laws, excess or new revenue collections, provisional advances of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, increased dividend remittances from government-owned corporations and capital withdrawal from public firms.
He added that the constitutional requirement did not restrict the revenue collection to a specific period, which meant that special appropriations measures could be paid for by future revenue collections.
Garin, one of the bill’s proponents, appealed to economic managers to support the bill, saying legislators were pressured by their constituents to deliver aid to help them cope with the pandemic.
“I would like to appeal to our economic managers, since the law does not provide that a certification is needed now. We can arrive at a certain number where both the legislative and executive can agree. We are also pressured because we are on the ground, and that is what our constituents are asking for,” she said.
News handpicked by our editors
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.