COVID-19 survivor Zubiri seeks 3-month extension of Bayanihan Law

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 28 2020 10:05 AM

Senate Majority Leader Migz Zubiri presides over a Senate hearing on May 4, 2020. Henzberg Austria, Senate PRIB

MANILA - Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri has filed a bill to extend the validity of a law that allows the realignment of funds for pandemic response, saying the COVID-19 crisis was far from over.

The senator, who recovered from COVID-19, sought to extend for 3 months, or until Sept. 30, the the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act. This will provide emergency support for vulnerable sectors, expand medical resources and finance emergency initiatives to keep the economy afloat, he said.

"Despite claims of flattening the curve, there is sustained local community transmission as more cases are reported daily," Zubiri said in the bill's explanatory note.

"It is apparent that the country is far from seeing the end to this extraordinary situation and the threat to life and livelihood persists," he said.

Senator Panfilo Lacson earlier said that it was "necessary" to extend the Bayanihan Act as the government could not solve the COVID-19 problem by June 24, the original expiry date of the law.

Under the law, 18 million low-income families are entitled to cash aid for 2 months. As of last week, the government has yet to reach all beneficiaries of the special amelioration program.

Congress needs to "do the math better" under the extended bill, Lacson told reporters in a text message when asked if the Bayanihan extension would still cover 18 million poor families.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said that it would be "ideal" to extend the Bayanihan Law up to 3 months as government aid was needed in various sectors.

Congress has until early next week to pass the Bayanaihan Law extension before lawmakers go on break on June 3. Sessions will resume on July 27, the same day of President Rodrigo Duterte's State of the Nation Address.