MANILA - Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday rejected talks of legislating a third COVID-19 aid package, saying the executive department has yet to complete the disbursement of funds under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2).
"A Bayanihan 3 makes no sense. None at all," Drilon told ABS-CBN News in a text message.
The Bayanihan 2 - which authorizes the executive branch to spend up to P165-billion for COVID-19-related projects - is effective until December 19, 2020, he said.
After that, the P4.5-trillion 2021 budget is expected to take effect, he added.
"A substantial portion of the funds (Bayanihan 2) have not been released, and funded programs and projects have not been implemented... Clearly, no sense for Bayanihan 3," the Senate Minority Leader said.
Late last month, the Department of Budget and Management said it has already released P77.98 billion to various agencies for their programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic under Bayanihan 2.
Drilon said it would be better for Congress to "recalibrate the 2021 budget" to ensure that more funds would be allocated for the purchase of "COVID-19 vaccines, calamities... and other social services."
The opposition bloc in the Senate has been pushing to realign the P19-billion anti-insurgency fund to social amelioration and other programs that would boost the Philippines' COVID-19 response.
While senators are not keen on prioritizing the passage of a third COVID-19 aid package, Senate Committee on Finance chair Sonny Angara earlier said that their House counterparts are already studying the possibility of a third Bayanihan law.
The first Bayanihan law, Republic Act 11469 or Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which granted President Rodrigo Duterte additional powers to respond to the pandemic, such as the authority to realign items under the 2020 national budget, was signed on March 25 and was in effect until June.
The coronavirus pandemic pulled the country into economic recession as over 400,000 people have been infected, of whom,
31,489 or 7.8 percent are still being treated, as of Nov. 11.