House seen to approve Bayanihan 3 next week

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star
House seen to approve Bayanihan 3 next week
House leaders said the measure is expected to immediately pass the committee level in time for the plenary debate when session resumes on May 17.
Michael Varcas, file

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives will start deliberating next week the proposed Bayanihan 3 law that would provide another round of economic stimulus to businesses and cash assistance or ayuda to workers and low-income families affected by the pandemic.

Although the chamber is still on a break, the committees on appropriations and economic affairs will meet and deliberate on the bill.

House leaders said the measure is expected to immediately pass the committee level in time for the plenary debate when session resumes on May 17.

The move came after Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, principal author of House Bill 8628 or the proposed “Bayanihan to Arise As One Act,” revealed that economic managers of the administration committed to look for funds for the P420-billion measure.

“I am thankful to Secretary (Carlos) Dominguez and Secretary (Wendel) Avisado for recognizing the importance of Bayanihan 3 in addressing the financial gaps to better manage the government’s response to the pandemic. Our economic managers see Bayanihan 3 as a lifeline for many Filipinos facing economic hardship during this crisis,” the Speaker stressed, referring to the finance and budget secretaries.

Velasco discussed the matter with key House leaders at a virtual meeting on Monday, Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero said.

Romero said the House is considering a special session to pass the measure.

Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte welcomed the commitment of the economic managers to look for funding for another round of ayuda.

“Congress should prioritize the passage of the ayuda bill or the proposed Bangon Pamilyang Pilipino (BPP) program when it resumes session as this would translate into a larger and broader package to help poor and low-income families survive the pandemic-driven global recession,” Villafuerte said.

He said providing much-needed financial aid to Filipinos is crucial at this time, especially after the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) reported that the two-week enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the National Capital Region (NCR) and adjacent provinces would result in 252,000 job losses and P30 billion in lost income, as well as drive 102,000 more Filipinos into poverty.

But he warned that providing funds for a fresh cash aid program should not breach the deficit cap of 8.9 percent of gross domestic product, to keep the country’s stable fiscal position and enable it to deal with the prolonged effects of the pandemic.

To prevent this, House ways and means committee chairman Joey Salceda said the budget for the measure could be “deficit neutral.”

Salceda said the funding could be sourced from the increase in dividend remittances of government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs).

“The first measure really is increasing the required dividend remittances of GOCCs from 50 percent to 75 percent. That’s allowed under Republic Act 756, but it would not be permanent. It would only be for a temporary period,” he said.

“We want to authorize the DOF to identify certain GOCCs that are over-capitalized,” Salceda said, referring to the Department of Finance.

Salceda said another urgent option is for the executive branch to enact and implement pending tax measures that the House already passed.

“The most obvious ones are on POGOs and on e-sabong. They are operational, but the tax regime is uncertain, so we’re not getting the most out of these. That will yield a combined P40 to 52 billion over the next five years,” he said.

Salceda said they could initially raise more or less P140 billion, which would plug the budget deficit.

Velasco’s Bayanihan 3 bill seeks another economic stimulus package worth P420 billion as the government enforces stricter restrictions amid a new surge in COVID cases.

Under the measure, each household member will receive P1,000 regardless of their economic status, P1,000 allowance for each student and teacher and P8,000 for displaced worker.

A total of 224 members from the supermajority, minority and independent blocs in the House signed either as principal authors or co-authors of the measure.

Velasco said he got assurance from Dominguez that efforts are being made to identify funding sources for the Bayanihan 3.

A similar measure was also filed in the Senate by Sen. Manny Pacquiao, which sought P335 billion in stimulus funds.

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