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Duterte urged to call for special session for passage of P1.3-T economic stimulus package

Cagayan De Oro City Representative Rufus Rodriguez on Wednesday urged President Rodrigo Duterte to call for a special session of Congress for the approval of the P1.3-trillion stimulus package to help address the economic impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis in the country.

"Time is of the essence. We should approve this stimulus package to help various sectors crippled by the Covid-19 pandemic. If we wait until August or September after we convene for our second regular session in late July, we will have wasted precious time,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

“Financial aid should be available as the economy begins to gain momentum with the easing of quarantine restrictions in many areas of the country,” he said.

According to Rodriguez, the Constitution authorizes the President to call legislators to a special session "at any time during a recess."

Congress has adjourned its sessions sine die last week, and will resume on July 27, the day the President is set to deliver his State of the Nation Address.

Rodriguez is a co-author of House Bill 6815, or the Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy (ARISE) Act.

The measure provides for five types of interventions: general, transitional, financial, sectoral, and structural.

Under the general intervention, a mass testing program, with a funding of P10 billion for 2020 and another P10 billion for 2021, 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.

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.

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.

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).

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. -MDM, GMA News