President Rodrigo Duterte and his Cabinet will submit a report every month to Congress on how the P165.5-billion COVID-19 stimulus package was utilized.
Malacañang made this announcement a day after Duterte signed on Friday the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2, a measure which succeeded the Bayanihan to Heal as Once Act, which expired on June 24.
The measure was signed into law 18 days after Congress ratified the Bayanihan 2 on August 24.
“As the Duterte administration remains committed in the promotion and upholding of accountability and transparency, especially on public expenditure, a monthly report will be duly submitted to the Congress until December 2020,” Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in a statement.
The practice of submitting reports on the use of Bayanihan 2 was carried from Bayanihan 1, in which the President submits weekly reports to Congress how the previous measure granting the chief executive special powers was utilized.
“With President Rodrigo Duterte’s signing of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2, we are well on our way to further intensify our aid and assistance not only to the healthcare sector, but also to the affected sectors of agriculture, tourism, and transportation, among others, that were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Andanar said.
“The stimulus package plan consisting of P140 billion-worth of regular appropriations and an additional standby fund of P25.5 billion will go towards the continuance of our proactive responses and the inclusion of other sectors’ needs, especially our micros, small, and medium enterprises, as we gradually reopen our economy to bounce back and to achieve our forecasted growths for the coming months and year,” the Cabinet official said.
The P140 billion will come from general appropriations while P25.5 billion will serve as a standby authority which can be used once additional government revenues become available.
The standby fund includes P10 billion for COVID-19 testing and procurement of medication and vaccines and P15.52 billion as additional capital infusion to government banks.
The new law provides that P50 billion will go to government financial institutions — Land Bank of the Philippines, Development Bank of the Philippines, Philippine Guarantee Corp., and Small Business Corp. — to provide soft loans to affected sectors.
Cash subsidies ranging from P5,000 to P8,000 will also be given to low-income households in areas under granular lockdown and those with recently returned overseas Filipino workers, as well as to displaced workers.
Some P13.5 billion will go to health-related responses, including the payment of P10,000 special risk allowance to both public and private medical frontliners, P3 billion for the procurement of face masks, face shields and personal protective equipment, and P4.5 billion for the construction of temporary medical isolation and quarantine facilities.
A total P4 billion has also been earmarked for the tourism industry, of which P1 billion is for Tourism Road Infrastructure Programs, and P3 billion is for cash-for-work programs and assistance to displaced workers.
The measure also sets aside subsidies and allowances amounting to P600,000 to qualified students in both public and private elementary, high school, and college students, as well as one-time cash aid amounting to P300,000 to displaced teaching and non-teaching personnel.
Around P13 billion has been set aside for cash-for-work programs and unemployment or involuntary separation assistance for displaced workers; P24 billon for direct cash or loan interest rate subsidies to farm groups under Department of Agriculture programs; and P9.5 billion for various programs of the Department of Transportation (DOTr), including assistance to displaced public utility drivers and construction of protected bicycle lanes.
The law also directs public utilities to implement a 30-day grace period of payment of fees falling within the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or modified ECQ without incurring interests, penalties and other charges.
Further, the requirement for certain permits for the installation and operation of telecommunication towers shall be temporarily suspended.
For his part, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque thanked the leaders of both Houses of Congress for their “display of statesmanship by their swift passage of this important piece of legislation.”
“We consider the Bayanihan 2 crucial in our efforts to gradually re-open the economy, support businesses and revitalize growth as we make our country resilient to COVID-19 by strengthening our health sector, particularly our healthcare capacity and pandemic response,” Roque said.
Vice President Leni Robredo however said last month the P165-billion fund in the Bayanihan 2 is not enough to address the problems brought by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Hindi sapat ang mga probisyong nakatala at perang inilaan sa Bayanihan 2. Government must spend more, spend efficiently, and spend quickly, with the utmost sense of urgency, as if our economic survival depends on it—because it does. And yet, heto tayo, nakasandal pa rin sa isang pre-COVID budget,” she said. —KG, GMA News