Palace hopes Bayanihan 2 funds released sooner
Some senators have scored the Department of Budget and Management for not releasing most of the funds allocated for programs that would help COVID-19-affected sectors.
The STAR/Felicer Santos, file

Palace hopes Bayanihan 2 funds released sooner

Emmanuel Tupas, Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - October 21, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang yesterday expressed hope that funds for the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2 would be released sooner, but maintained that the budget could still be used even after the law expires in December.

Some senators have scored the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for not releasing most of the funds allocated for programs that would help COVID-19-affected sectors.

During a budget hearing last Monday, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said only P6 billion of the P165.5-billion funding under the Bayanihan 2 law has been released.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the government wants the Bayanihan funds released because they would spur economic activity.

“Of course, we would like it to be released sooner because the P165 billion will also act as an economic stimulus,” Roque said at a press briefing.

Roque also allayed concerns that the Bayanihan 2 funds may no longer be used after the law lapses on Dec. 19.

“They just need to be spent, but I don’t think the expenditure is subject to the expiration of the law because (the budget) has been appropriated and it’s just about to be released. So there would be no problems,” he said.

Citing DBM data, the Palace spokesman said P2.5 billion has been released to the Department of the Interior and Local Government, P855 million to the Office of Civil Defense, about P104 million to local governments and P820 million to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The release of P6 billion to the Department of Social Welfare and Development and P8 billion to the Department of Labor and Employment are awaiting approval by the Office of the President.

Among the items with big budget allocations under Bayanihan 2 are the provision of face masks and face shields and construction of isolation facilities (P13.5 billion); cash-for-work program (P13 billion); capital infusion for government banks (P39.47 billion); assistance to the agriculture sector (P24 billion); assistance to the transportation sector (P9.5 billion); assistance for the development of smart campuses of state universities and colleges (P3 billion); social welfare programs (P6 billion); coronavirus tests, medicines and vaccines (P10 billion).

PUV drivers to benefit

At least 60,000 drivers of public utility vehicles (PUVs) will benefit from the government’s P5.58-billion subsidy program under Bayanihan 2, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said yesterday.

The transport regulator said the financial assistance would be given through service contract agreements, where the government would shoulder the financial losses of jeepney and bus drivers as they are operating at reduced capacity due to physical distancing protocols.

LTFRB chairman Martin Delgra III said the program, which runs until December, would benefit about 60,000 drivers in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao.

Two drivers are needed for every PUV on 18 hours of operation in a day, according to Delgra.

“Therefore, projected beneficiaries of the program would double their units and reach approximately 60,000 drivers,” he said at an online news briefing.

All PUV drivers plying the open routes during various community quarantines are qualified for the program.

LTFRB Technical Division head Joel Bolano said jeepney drivers would get P11 and bus drivers P23.10 for every kilometer, and the beneficiaries can get their cash subsidies every week at Landbank.

The LTFRB has tapped an information technology company which will monitor the movement of drivers.

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