MANILA (UPDATE)-- President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law on Friday the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) -- the government's second coronavirus pandemic relief measure meant to act as the country's defense against health and economic problems stemming from COVID-19.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go confirmed the development.
The new measure replaced the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Bayanihan 1), which granted Duterte additional powers, such as the authority to realign government funds, to respond to the pandemic.
The Palace thanked Congress for the passage of Bayanihan 2.
"We consider the Bayanihan II crucial in our efforts to gradually re-open the economy, support businesses and revitalize growth as we make our country resilient to COVID-19 by strengthening our health sector, particularly our healthcare capacity and pandemic response," said Presidential spokesman Harry Roque.
The Bayanihan 2 law is seen as a life vest for the economy, as it includes a P140-billion aid package for industries adversely affected by the pandemic, and a P25.52-billion standby fund that the government may spend before the 2021 budget takes effect.
Similar to its predecessor, Bayanihan 2 allows the President to realign funds for pandemic-related expenses.
Below is a breakdown of funds under Bayanihan 2:
- Funding for government financial institutions - P39.47 billion
- Loans for farmers - P24 billion
- Health-related response - P13.5 billion
- Cash for work and involuntary separation pay - P13 billion
- Transportation programs - P9.5 billion
- Social welfare programs - P6 billion
- Hiring of contact tracers - P5 billion
- Construction of temporary isolation facilities - P4.5 billion
- Education sector's transition to new normal - P4 billion
- Maintenance of isolation facilities (hotel, food, transportation bills)- P4.5 billion
- Tourism industry assistance and programs - P4 billion
- Assistance for State Universities and Colleges - P3 billion
- Procurement of personal protective equipment - P3 billion
- Payment for local government loans - P2 billion
- Local Government Support Fund - P1.5 billion
- TESDA scholarship - P1 billion
- Foreign Affairs assistance to nationals fund - P820 million
- Allowances for qualified students - P600 million
- Allowances for displaced teachers, non-teaching personnel - P300 million
- Allowances for national athletes and coaches - P180 million
- Training and subsidies for tourist guides - P100 million
- UP computational research laboratory - P15 million
- Health Technology Assessment Council research fund - P10 million
- Professional Regulation Commission computer-based licensure exam: P2.5 million
- Standby fund - P25.52 billion
The signing came as the government opted to keep nearly the entire Philippines under relaxed virus restrictions until the end of the month in a bid to boost economic activity after the country fell into recession in the second quarter.
Economic activity was halted by a lockdown imposed starting mid-March until June, when the government slowly eased restrictions.
The Philippines employs a 4-level community quarantine scheme, ranging from the strictest enhanced community quarantine to the most relaxed modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).
The quarantine level dictates the type of business activities allowed in a certain area, as well as travel restrictions.
Except for Iligan City, Bacolod City, and Lanao del Sur -- all under the modified enhanced community quarantine -- the rest of the Philippines were placed under more relaxed virus restrictions.
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Bienvenido “Benny” Abante Jr. stressed the need for Congress to create an oversight committee to guard the use of Bayanihan 2 funds to ensure that the allocated P165 billion is “utilized properly, prudently, and expeditiously.”
“Kailangan natin bantayan ang pondong ito,” Abante said.
The congressman pointed out that "funds are scarce" due to the low revenue collections brought about by the pandemic.
"We must make the most of what we have . . . We cannot allow these funds to gather dust because of slow or delayed implementation,” said the solon.
“Sabi nila, justice delayed is justice denied. Ganyan din pagdating sa ayuda o proyekto -- assistance delayed is assistance denied."