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House ad hoc panel OKs bills addressing COVID-19 effects on economy, financial institutions

The House Defeat COVID-19 ad hoc committee on Tuesday approved three measures geared toward addressing the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the country's economy and financial institutions, and to prohibit discrimination against COVID-19 patients.

During its virtual hearing, the committee approved the substitute bill for the proposed Philippine Economic Stimulus Act, which sets aside a P1.3-trillion stimulus package until 2023 to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis to the economy.

The substitute measure is a consolidation of 10 bills seeking to cushion the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis, including the proposed Economy Moving Forward as One Act of Marikina City Representative Stella Luz Quimbo, and the proposed National Stimulus Strategy Act  of Albay Representative Joey Salceda.

The economic stimulus program aims to ensure that business operations and jobs will be retained even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A total of P110 billion will be allocated for wage subsidies, P30 billion for cash for work, and P15 billion for assistance to students, while P10 billion will be made available to assist micro, small and medium enterprises, P58 billion for assistance to the tourism industry, and P44 billion for assistance to the industry and services sectors.

Around 4.1 million MSME employees are expected to benefit from the economic stimulus package by assisting their companies.

Meanwhile, the ad hoc committee also approved the proposed Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer Act introduced by House Committee on Banks and Financial Institutions chair Junie Cua Jr.

The measure primarily aims to help financial institutions to resolve their debts and manage their non-performing assets (NPAs) to temper the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on their financial operations.

In the wake of the pandemic, many financial institutions have been faced with delayed loan collections and could record higher NPAs across all borrower segments.

“The FIST measure seeks to strengthen the financial sector in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis through rehabilitation of distressed businesses and improving liquidity of the financial system,” said House Defeat COVID-19 committee co-chair Martin Romualdez.

The ad hoc committee likewise approved the Anti-Discrimination Bill related to the COVID-19 crisis, which prohibits discrimination against persons who are declared confirmed, suspect, probable, and recovered cases of COVID-19, as well as against healthcare workers and service providers.

The measure aims to grant full protection against prejudice and discrimination against those who have contracted and recovered from the dissease, and against those who provide medical, logistical and service support to them.

At the same time, the bill also recognizes the dignity and heroism of health workers, responders and service workers who are at the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19.

Following the approval of the measures in the committee, they can now be sent to the plenary for discussion. --KBK, GMA News