MANILA - The House of Representatives approved on second reading Friday a P1.5 trillion stimulus after official date showed unemployment during the COVID-19 lockdown ballooned to a record.
The COVID-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus or CURES aims to create infrastructure jobs and encourage people to move to the provinces from Metro Manila.
Funds will be allocated to infrastructure projects such as barangay health centers and municipal and city hospitals, virus testing equipment, telehealth services and e-prescriptions, post harvest facilities and food terminals, among others, said Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte, one of the bill's co-authors.
The stimulus also earmarked funds for walking and bike lanes, bridges, evacuation centers, disaster facilities, roads, economic zones and hubs for small and medium enterprises, he said.
“This measure aims to blunt the impact of what the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects to be the worst global recession since the Great Depression in the 1930s by stimulating economic activity and creating so many jobs in the countryside,” Villafuerte said.
The bill will boost President Rodrigo Duterte's "Balik-Probinsya (Back to the Province)" program by building livelihood opportunities in the regions, he said.
Unemployment in the Philippines rose 17.7 percent in April with at least 7.3 million Filipinos jobless, government data released Friday showed.
When asked in an earlier Senate hearing if unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic could reach 10 million, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said "it's possible."
The timely approval of stimulus bills will help stem rising unemployment, Nomura Securities senior economist for ASEAN Euben Paracuelles said.
-- with a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News