Approved was Senate Bill 1564 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, which removes the penal provision of RA 11469 and expanded financial assistance to various sectors, including to farmers, public utility drivers, teachers and those in the creative industry affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Boy Santos, file
Senate approves Bayanihan Act 2
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - June 4, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate last night approved on second reading a bill replacing Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act which gave President Duterte special powers to address the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis.

The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act is set to expire this month.

Approved was Senate Bill 1564 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, which removes the penal provision of RA 11469 and expanded financial assistance to various sectors, including to farmers, public utility drivers, teachers and those in the creative industry affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Sonny Angara as chairman of the committee on finance, has no more punitive provisions but an expansion of various financial assistance packages to distressed sectors and small businesses.

The government will earmark P140 billion with the new law. Of the amount, P10 billion will be for the purchase of COVID-19 test kits and medical supplies; P15 billion for the continuation of cash for work and other subsidy programs for displaced overseas Filipino workers; and P17 billion for unemployed teachers and those in the film, audiovisual and creative industries.

The figure also includes P50 billion as capital infusion to government financial institutions such as the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines for the extension of loans or credit guarantees of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

Some P17 billion was allocated for the Department of Agriculture’s “Plant, Plant, Plant” program and subsidies to farmers and fisherfolk; P17 billion for the transportation sector, including those for service contracting of public utility vehicles and development of bike lanes.

Some P10 billion was also set aside for the tourism industry, P3 billion for state universities and colleges and P1 billion for the development of “smart campuses” under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

The original amount proposed in RA 1564 was P236 billion but the Department of Finance declared that the national coffers could only afford P140 billion.

Upon the motion of Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, the chamber also scrapped Section 6, a penal provision that was reportedly abused by some law enforcers.

The provision punishes various offenses, including the spreading of false information or “fake news,” 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.

“The repeal of Section 6 will avoid the notion that the Bayanihan Law is anti-poor because it is the poor and the vulnerable that are victims of the inequity in its implementation,” Drilon said.

If the President certifies it as urgent, the Senate is expected to approve it last night on third and final reading on the last day of session of Congress.

CURES, other bills approved

The House of Representatives has approved a bill setting a P1.5-trillion stimulus program that would jumpstart recovery of the nation’s economy severely damaged by the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

In virtual session last Tuesday night, the chamber voted to pass on second reading House Bill No. 6920, substitute for HB 6709 or the proposed COVID-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus (CURES) Act, after sponsorship and debate.

Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte, one of the authors who sponsored the bill on the floor, explained that the measure is necessary to aid economic recovery through infrastructure spending and job creation.

“This bill is based on the rationale that government spending through infrastructure will boost the economy, provide job opportunities and provide hope for the people,” he stressed in his speech.

The Camarines Sur representative revealed that the measure would focus on boosting infrastructure on health, education, agriculture and livelihood.

“This is not limited to infrastructure programs because once we’re done, we will hire more medical practitioners like doctors, nurses and medical technicians,” the House leader pointed out.

Villafuerte was joined by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Deputy Speakers Paolo Duterte and Loren Legarda and Reps. Eric Yap, Maria Laarni Cayetano, Michael Defensor and Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado in filing the bill.

HB 6920 seeks allocation of P500 billion for three years starting this year until 2022 for programs anchored on infrastructure spending and job creations, especially in provinces, to address the impact of the community quarantine measures implemented by the government to combat the disease.

It aims to gear state infrastructure spending “towards maximizing the direct and indirect creation and preservation of jobs, particularly in the rural countryside.”

The measure also seeks to dramatically increase government spending not just on major infrastructure projects but also on health, education, agriculture, local roads infrastructure and livelihood (HEAL) programs.

The bulk of infrastructure projects outlined in the bill would be undertaken in conjunction with the “Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-Asa” program initiated by Sen. Bong Go and later institutionalized by President Duterte with the issuance of Executive Order No. 114. Cecille Suerte Felipe, Edu Punay, Delon Porcalla

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