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Bayanihan 2 funding could've been higher if gov't had more resources —Zubiri

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri on Sunday admitted that the funding for the proposed Bayanihan to Recover As One Act could have been higher if the government had more resources.

Zubiri made the remark after the Senate approved on third reading its version of the proposed second Bayanihan Law, outlining P140 billion-worth of economic recovery interventions amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

In an interview on Dobol B sa News TV, Zubiri acknowledged that the funds provided under the proposed law is insufficient, and he agreed with Senator Ralph Recto that the P140-billion allocation was only one-month's worth of the salary of government employees.

"Gusto talaga naming itulak na mas mataas ang halaga o pera na ilalagay natin sa Bayanihan 2. Subalit binigyan kami ng ceiling or funding cap ng DOF (Department of Finance)," he said.

"Si Secretary [Carlos] Dominguez mismo ang nagsabi na hanggang P140 billion lang ang kaya nilang pondohan sa kakulangan ng pera. At kung masyadong malaki ang nilagay naming pondo doon sa Bayanihan 2, baka ma-veto lang dahil hindi nila kayang i-budget," he added.

If the Senate had its way, Zubiri said they could have put a higher allocation under Bayanihan 2.

"Hindi galing sa amin ang numero na 'yan. Believe me, kung kaya naming gawing P300 billion 'yan, P500 billion, gagawin ng Senado 'yan. Pero kulang nga ang pondo," he added.

The Senate version of Bayanihan 2 aims to reduce the  adverse impact of COVID-19 on the socioeconomic well-being of Filipinos through the provision of assistance, subsidies and other forms of socioeconomic relief, and to sustain efforts to test, trace, and treat COVID-19 cases in the country.

The bill provides for the appropriation of a P140 billion in standby fund to facilitate economic recovery to be used for ramping up COVID-19 testing and enhancing healthcare services, implementation of the cash-for-work program, provision of livelihood for displaced workers, among others.

The House of Representatives is set to approve its version of the measure this week, but it is proposing a higher funding of P162 billion, prompting the chambers to convene a bicameral conference committee meeting to iron out the disagreeing provisions in their versions.

"We need to pass Bayanihan 2 agad. Hopefully by next week matapos na namin ang bicam at ipapasa natin, ira-ratify natin 'yan, ibigay kay Presidente para pirmahan niya," Zubiri said.

Following the passage of Bayanihan 2, Zubiri said the Senate will aim to approve the proposed Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives Enterprises (CREATE) Law which seeks to reduce corporate income tax to 25% from 30% currently.

In his State of the Nation Address last month, President Rodrigo Duterte urged Congress to pass the tax reform measure seeking to reduce corporate income tax to 25% from 30%. —KG, GMA News