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Senate, House agree to set funding for Bayanihan 2 to P162B —Drilon

The Senate is amenable to increasing the allocation it recommended for the proposed Bayanihan to Recover As One Act to P162 billion, similar to the proposal of the House of Representatives.

This was according to Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who was part of the Senate contingent to the bicameral conference committee seeking to reconcile the disagreeing provisions of the Senate and the House's version of the proposed Bayanihan 2 Law.

Under its version, the Senate was proposing a P140-billion allocation for the proposed law, lower than the P162-billion funding under the House's version.

But Drilon, in a Dobol B sa News interview on Sunday, said the Senate and House contingents agreed to set the funding to P162 billion as congressmen have proposed.

"Nagkakasundo ang dalawang panig na siguro dapat aabot tayo sa P162 billion. Pumapayag ang Senado na itaas ang total budget ng Bayanihan 2 sa P162 billion," he said.

Drilon said that among other sectors, a total of P10 billion have been allocated for COVID-19 PCR testing, P15 billion for cash-for-work program for displaced workers, P17 billion as cash subsidy for employees in affected small businesses as well as unemployment and severance pay for displaced workers, and P50 billion for the government's loan program.

A total of P17 billion have also been set aside to support the agriculture sector, P12 billion for the transportation industry, and P10 billion for the tourism industry, although the two houses have yet to decide to which agency this amount would be allocated, he added.

Drilon also said the proposed Bayanihan 2 Law will also provide P5,000 to P8,000 cash subsidy to families in the informal sector, much like in the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, although they have yet to estimate how many families will benefit from this.

"Meron ulit at kasama yan sa sinabi ko kanina, yung support program for impacted sector. Yung sa social amelioration, P5,000 to P8,000 depende kung saan, dito sa NCR o sa probinsiya ang bawat pamilya sa informal sector," he said.

There was also a proposal to provide one-time cash assistance to private school teachers, but Drilon did not mention the amount.

The two houses also agreed to provide a P15,000 cash assistance for health workers with mild and moderate COVID-19. 

They likewise approved a provision temporarily suspending the requirement for certain permits for the installation and operation of telecommunication towers in the next three years.

The bicameral conference committee will resume its meeting on Monday at 10 a.m.

President Rodrigo Duterte, in his State of the Nation Address last month, asked Congress to pass Bayanihan 2.

"I hope that we can get some of the same treatment of clarity of purpose and the fastness to support the passage of the Bayanihan to Recover as One which is supplement funds for the recovery and response against the impact of COVID-19 pandemic," Duterte said.

The Duterte administration is banking on the passage of the Bayanihan 2 and the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget for 2021 as well as the Build, Build, Build infrastructure program to revive the economy hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Philippine economy shrank 16.5% in the second quarter, its worst on record in almost four decades.

The two straight quarters — January to March and April to June — of negative gross domestic product (GDP) also brought the country to a technical recession, the first time since 1991.

“Hopefully approved in the soonest possible time to address all the concerns of the economy being affected by the ECQ,” National Economic Development Authority Acting Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said in a Palace briefing on Friday. —KG, GMA News