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House OKs on 2nd reading P1.3-T stimulus bill to address COVID-19 economic impact

The House of Representatives has approved on second reading the bill which proposes a package of reforms, comprising P688 billion in new spending on its first year, to help address the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis in the country.

In a vote of ayes and nayes, the chamber on Monday evening approved House Bill 6815, or the proposed Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy (ARISE) Act, authored by Representatives Sharon Garin, Stella Quimbo, Joey Salceda and 263 other lawmakers.

The economic stimulus package bill is expected to protect and assist up to 15.7 million workers, create 3 million short-term jobs and 1.5 million infrastructure over the period of three years, and help up to 5.57 million micro, small, and medium enterprises.

The measure is divided into five types of interventions: general, transitional, financial, sectoral, and structural.

Under the general intervention, a mass testing program will be implemented where the Department of Health will be tasked to adopt a disease surveillance protocol and the Department of the Interior and Local Government will procure and distribute COVID-19 test kits.

An amount of P10 billion will be allocated for the mass testing program in 2020 and another P10 billion for 2021.

Meanwhile, under transitional interventions, wage subsidies will be provided to non-essential businesses (50% to 75% of wages), self-employed and freelancers (75% of minimum wage), and overseas Filipino workers (P15,000 per month), all for a period of two months.

A total of P110 billion for 2020 will be allocated for wage subsidies under the measure.

The existing cash-for-work (TUPAD) program of the Department of Labor and Employment will also now include COVID-19 related work, and has a funding of P30 billion.

Moreover, the measure also provides for educational subsidy to COVID-affected students in private schools. A total of P7,500 will be given for each college student for the payment of second semester tuition and other fees, and P4,000 for each K-12 student.

The monthly PhilHealth premiums of OFWs will likewise be reduced to P300 in 2020, P375 in 2021, and P450 in 2022 to relieve them of the global impact of COVID-19.

Other transitional interventions include loan extensions, regulatory relief for business entities, and regularization for MSMEs.

Under financial interventions, the measure allows the Small Business Corporation (SBC) to expand its existing loan programs for MSMEs, prioritizing startups and micro and small enterprises and preference to health-related investments.

A total of P5 billion will be allocated for 2020 as SBC paid-up capital, and another P45 billion as special fund in 2020 and P25 billion as special fund in 2021.

Other financial interventions include interest-free loan programs to be introduced by the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines for non-essential businesses to encourage them to continue investing in their businesses, and loan guarantee by the Philippine Guarantee Corporation.

Sectoral interventions include providing assistance to MSMEs (P10 billion), to tourism (P58 billion), to the transportation industry (P70 billion), to manufacturers, importers, exporters, and service sectors (P44 billion), and to the Agri-Fishery Sector (P66 billion).

Meanwhile, structural interventions include an Enhanced "Build, Build, Build" Program, where the following projects will be included in the National Expenditure Program for 2021, 2022 and 2023:

  • Health facilities for UHC and pandemic demands
  • “Schools for the Future” facilities
  • Infrastructure for creative industries (like K-culture in Korea for tourism promotion)
  • Infrastructure for food security and agricultural resilience
  • Passenger ports and terminals
  • Police stations and barracks
  • Better prison infrastructure
  • Social housing projects
  • Relocation of manufacturing and service facilities

A total of P650 billion in three years starting 2020 is proposed for the Enhanced "Build, Build, Build" program, which is expected to produce 1.5 million jobs.

Other structural interventions include preference for private-public partnerships, coordination of monetary and fiscal policies, and other socio-economic policy measures such as the proposed Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa, supply chain management, among others.

Following the approval on second reading, the measure only needs the third and final approval of the House before it can be sent to the Senate for its own consideration. --KBK, GMA News