MANILA — Lawmakers from the House of Representatives led by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Friday called for the immediate passage of a fresh pandemic budget ahead of the impending imposition of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila.
"The imposition of ECQ in Metro Manila due to the threat of the Delta variant brings to light the urgency of Bayanihan 3, and we appeal to our counterparts in the Senate to pass this measure and to our economic managers to secure funding for this bill," Velasco said in a statement.
The House of Representatives has passed on final reading the proposed Bayanihan 3 last June. It has since been pending at the Senate.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier in the day placed Metro Manila under ECQ— the strictest of four lockdown levels— starting next week, Aug. 6 to Aug. 20, to prevent the Delta variant from spreading.
The imposition of an ECQ may result in an increase in the number of poor people by up to 177,000 and the unemployed by 444,000, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said in a statement.
House Ways and Means Committee chair Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said under the current budget, there was nothing left for "ayuda" or cash aid.
"There's no other recourse but a supplemental budget through Bayanihan 3... The President also does not have unilateral power to realign from the national budget. So, under our existing budgets, we don't have anything for ayuda," Salceda said.
Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo also said Bayanihan 3 would allow the government to distribute stimulus package among the most affected portions of the population.
"This is precisely why we need to pass Bayanihan 3. It allocates the necessary funds for ayuda to individuals and businesses, as well as give the president the emergency powers necessary to quickly address people's needs during times like this. Bayanihan 3 also identifies possible fund sources including savings from GAA and Bayanihan 2," she said.
Meanwhile, House Deputy Minority Leader Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate stressed the need to pass Bayanihan 3 to provide aid to families that would be affected by the restrictions.
"If Duterte can order to immediately replenish funds for dolomite and give sacks of campaign funds to allies, why not certify as urgent the bill for people's ayuda?" Zarate said.
Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado confirmed there was no specific item for more financial aid in the 2021 budget.