Government's tight budget planning open to 'Bayanihan 3' for typhoon victims
Residents carry their belongings as they make their way through a flooded street to shelter after Typhoon Vamco hit, in Marikina City, suburban Manila on November 12, 2020.
AFP/Ted Aljibe
Government's tight budget planning open to 'Bayanihan 3' for typhoon victims
Ian Nicolas Cigaral (Philstar.com) - November 16, 2020 - 7:41pm

MANILA, Philippines — Fiscal planners are open to proposals for another round of “Bayanihan” measures, this time to aid disaster-stricken communities battered by typhoons in recent weeks.

“We are not averse to it,” Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said in a text message on Monday.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III also said should seeking additional funding from Congress is on the table if warranted. 

“We are in the process of evaluating the damage of the series of typhoons and the amounts required to address these and will determine whether or not the current budget will be sufficient,” he said in a separate Viber message.

With 45 days to go to yearend, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto floated the idea of a so-called “Bayanihan 3” in a budget hearing on Monday, supposedly to give government budget leeway to spend for the victims of succeeding typhoons that slammed in Luzon and parts of the Visayas over the past 3 weeks.

“If we were quick to act for a Bayanihan 1 and 2 for the pandemic, why not have a Bayanihan 3 for this typhoon?” Recto asked his colleagues at the floor on Monday.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara III, chair of the finance committee sponsoring the 2021 budget, said he was willing to discuss another stimulus bill, if not for time constraints. “If for instance, a special session is called if needed, then that would be a possibility,” he said.

Senators only have until December 18 to pass the 2021 budget as well as other priority legislations like the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) which the administration believes are critical to ensure a full economic rebound next year. 

Apart from time limitations, how a supplemental spending package will fit the current tight fiscal planning remained unclear. As it stands, economic managers have put spending under control, limiting pandemic stimulus largely to amounts the current P4.1-trillion outlay provide and what can be moved around through legislation.

This was how the two “Bayanihan” laws that funded coronavirus response had at least operated. The Bayanihan to Heal as One under Republic Act 11469 enacted last March and expired last June gave President Rodrigo Duterte direct power to realign and repurpose funds in the budget. Its successor, RA 11494 or Bayanihan to Recover As One passed last September, did the same, with a small augmentation of P140 billion in new funding.

Beyond the budget however, it is sluggish disbursement that is proving to be the biggest roadblock to calamity response. In pandemic spending alone, only around P77 billion of the P140 billion had been released as of October, prompting congressional representatives to consider extending Bayanihan II’s validity beyond yearend to maximize the amount.

“(This) is to enable the national government to complete the release of our P140-billion response to the coronavirus pandemic even after the end of year 2020,” House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez said.

For Nicholas Antonio Mapa, senior economist at ING Bank in Manila who considers Bayanihan I and II insufficient to address the health crisis, said recent calamities only bolster the need for new funding. “We must realize that the destruction caused by the flooding and storms impact the lives of Filipinos…,” he said in an e-mail.

“Perhaps legislators and authorities can draft a quick and effective spending bill to address the crisis caused by the storm with a different name, and keep Bayanihan 3 on the table for spending to help the economy recover from COVID-19…,” he continued.

NOVEL CORONAVIRUS PHILIPPINE ECONOMY
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