MANILA - The Senate eyes to pass a measure that will expand the coverage of the government's assistance programs during the coronavirus crisis, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said Monday.
The Senate is considering to pass the "Bayanihan 2" to include micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), and stakeholders in the tourism and transportation industry as beneficiaries of the government's assistance packages since these industries are hardest-hit by the pandemic, Zubiri told reporters in an online press conference.
"We're planning to vote for a Bayanihan 2 which will discuss initiatives for affected sectors," Zubiri said.
"Priority and focus should be how to resolve this problem of COVID-19 and how to help jump start our economy, and control the increase in poverty level."
The chamber has yet to decide if it will expand the cash aid program for marginalized Filipinos since there have been "a lot of complaints" in the distribution process, the senator said.
Under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, 18 million families who lost their income due to work stoppage during the pandemic are entitled to receive between P5,000 and P8,000 per month for 2 months.
Over half of the intended beneficiaries have yet to receive the cash aid, as there are discrepancies between the lists of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and local governments.
"Pag-uusapan din namin kung may idadagdag na social amelioration sa gobyerno. Pero tingnan din natin yung efficiency sa pagbigay [kasi yung unang tranche] hindi pa umaabot sa 50 percent [distribution]," Zubiri said.
(We'll also discuss if there will be additional social amelioration. But we will also look into the efficiency in the distribution because it hasn't reached 50 percent yet.)
"We want to make sure na bago tayo mag-release ng pera for social amelioration, naibibigay sa tao... Ayaw natin magka-backlog. Napakaraming complaints na hindi pa sila nabibigyan," he said.
(We want to make sure that before we release funds for social amelioration, the people have received (their aid) already... We don't want any backlog. There are a lot of complaints that they haven't received yet.)
The Senate will first focus on "ironing out the kinks of video conferencing" this week, as the chamber adopts a new normal to protect lawmakers and staff members from contracting the highly-contagious disease.
"On-the-job training muna kami this week. Hopefully, next week puwede na mag-conduct ng hearings ang mga senador," Zubiri said.
(We'll be on-the-job training this week. Hopefully, next week, the senators can already conduct hearings.)