MANILA (UPDATE) - Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto has filed a bill seeking to create the Philippines' third COVID-19 relief package, saying the measure would help the Philippines "accelerate" its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and recent calamities.
Senate Bill No. 1953 also known as the Bayanihan to Rebuild as One was filed in the Senate on December 14, and authorizes the government to spend some P485 billion to respond to COVID-19-related programs as well as calamity response projects.
"We were not yet able to fully flatten the curve and yet our country had already been battered by typhoons Roily, Quinta and Ulysses which came in succession in two weeks' time," Recto said in his bill's explanatory note.
"We can fast track this Bayanihan 3 as a continuing response to soften the impact of an economic downturn, accelerate the economic recovery of the country and respond to the urgent needs of areas battered by the recent typhoons," he said.
Under the proposed measure, the executive branch is expected to spend the P485 billion from the Bayanihan 3 as follows:
- 55 Billion - procurement of COVID-19 medication and vaccines
- 55 Billion - handling of vaccines, hiring of contact tracers, testing and treatment under PhilHealth, and payment of actual hazard duty pay
- 100 Billion - worker subsidies
- 100 Billion - capacity building of critically-impacted sectors
- 70 Billion - additional social amelioration to affected households;
- 20 Billion - assistance to households that have been severely impacted by recent typhoons
- 30 Billion - assistance to displaced workers
- 50 Billion - rehabilitation of typhoon-affected areas
- 3 Billion - internet allowances for DepEd K to 12 teachers and students
- 2 Billion for the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) for internet allowances for tertiary level teachers and students
The proposed Bayanihan 3 also creates the "Bayanihan Council" which "shall be tasked with ensuring that interventions are well-targeted to intended beneficiaries and funds are disbursed properly and in a timely manner."
The proposed panel will have as its members the following government officials:
- President of the Senate
- Speaker of the House of Representatives
- 7 members of the Cabinet to be designated by the President
- 3 members of the Senate to be designated by the President of the Senate
- 3 members of the House of Representatives to be designated by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, at least one of whom shall come from the dominant minority party
Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo has filed a counterpart measure in the House of Representatives.
Recto's bill was filed a day before the Senate approved on final reading 2 bills that would extend the respective validities of the 2020 national budget and the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2).
The 2020 national budget, which still has P110 billion in undisbursed funds, is expected to be valid until December 31, 2021 after President Rodrigo Duterte signs the extension measure into law.
The Bayanihan 2 will be extended until March 19, 2020 - 3 months after its original expiry - to allow the government to continue to use some P38 billion that has yet to be released.