The proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, which features P140 billion-worth of economic recovery interventions in the country, passed second reading in the Senate on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 1564, or the Bayanihan Law 2, enumerates key COVID-19 response and recovery interventions that must be implemented by the government until September 30, 2020.
Before the session resumed, Senate President Vicente Sotto III explained to reporters that the bill was not an extension of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act but was a new law altogether.
The bill provides for the appropriation of a P140 billion in standby fund to facilitate economic recovery which shall be spent as follows:
- P10 billion for efforts to ramp up COVID-19 testing and enhancement of health care services
- P15 billion for the implementation of cash-for-work program and the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD)
- P17 billion for unemployment or involuntary separation assistance to the displaced workers in health, education, tourism, culture and arts, creative industry, transportation and other sectors affected by the pandemic
- P50 billion for infusion of capital to government financial institutions
- P17 billion support to the agriculture sector
- P17 billion assistance to the critically impacted businesses in the transportation industry and for the development of accessible sidewalks and protected bicycle lanes
- P10 billion support for the bogged-down tourism sector
- P3 billion assistance to state universities and colleges for their transition to flexible learning modality
- P1 billion assistance to Technical Education and Skills Development Authority for the development of smart campuses
Among the sources of the proposed multi-billion appropriation are the 2020 General Appropriations Act, savings pooled pursuant to the first Bayanihan law, excess revenue collections, loans, foreign borrowings, and taxes collected from offshore gaming industry.
The bill retained the subsidy for 18 million low-income households under the enhanced community quarantine—a key provision of the first Bayanihan law. The amount, however, was not specified. Households of displaced Overseas Filipino Workers shall likewise be entitled to cash assistance from the government.
"The vetting and validation of beneficiaries of the Social Amelioration Program and the related liquidation report thereto shall be simplified to expedite the distribution of the subsidy," it read.
It also has a provision for a one-month emergency subsidy to low-income households who are qualified but were not granted such under the social amelioration program in the first Bayanihan law.
The grant of tuition subsidies to qualified private school students in basic education and tertiary education is also included in the bill. These shall be released directly to the private learning institutions prior to the opening of school year 2020-2021 but no later than September 2020.
A one-time cash assistance shall likewise be extended to private school teaching and non-teaching employees who were affected and displaced by the pandemic. Affected part-time faculty in state universities and colleges must also receive the said aid.
The measure also provides for loan assistance, subsidies, discounts or grants to schools, teachers, faculties, and students for the purchase of distance learning tools such as computers, laptops, tablets and other ICT devices.
The bill states that COVID-19 testing in the Philippines must be beefed up and shall cover a certain percentage of the population, as prescribed by the World Health Organization.
A mandatory testing of public and private health workers every fifteen (15) days must likewise be implemented to ensure their protection.
The existing network of barangay health workers, parent-leaders from the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), and members of duly accredited Civil Society Organizations must likewise be tapped to boost contact tracing efforts in the country.
The P100,000 sickness benefit for public and private health workers who would contract severe COVID-19, and P1 million death benefit for those who would succumb to the virus while in line of duty were likewise included in the measure. These will have a retroactive application from January 1, 2020.
No more punitive provision
The prohibited acts enumerated in the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act were omitted in this new bill, as proposed by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon.
The bill mandates the President to submit a weekly report to Congress every Monday to inform the body of all acts performed pursuant to this proposed law.
The Bayinan to Recover as One Act shall be effective upon its publication in the
Official Gazette and one newspaper of general circulation after being signed by the President. -NB, GMA News