The bicameral panel discussing the proposed Bayanihan to Recover As One Act has adopted the provision in the House's version of the measure that would include private health workers among the beneficiaries of a P10,000 COVID-19 special risk allowance.
In its first meeting on August 14, the panel -- composed of Senate and House contingents -- adopted the provision in House Bill 6953 seeking to allocate a total of P10.5 billion in various compensations for medical frontliners, including a special risk allowance for both public and private health workers treating COVID-19 patients.
The Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, which lapsed last June, had provided the said benefit to public healthcare workers, but Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the House also wanted to recognize the efforts of those working in private hospitals.
"In any crisis, the government is forced to prioritize with limited resources; you will have to ask the private sectors to, as much as they can, manage it on their own so the most disadvantaged ones can be accommodated. But at this point in this pandemic, there is hardly that distinction," Cayetano said in a statement on Thursday.
"No amount of money could repay the blood, sweat, and tears shed by our health workers, but taking care of those extra things for them can go a long way. And it will allow them to focus more on taking care of our kababayans."
Under the House's version of the measure, the special risk allowance of P10,000 granted to public and private health workers is tax-free.
A compensation of P100,000 will also be provided to public and private health workers who have contracted or may contract severe COVID-19 infection in line of duty from February 1, 2020 onwards, which the bicameral panel also adopted.
Meanwhile, the House also proposed that a P1-million compensation be given to the family of public and private health workers who have died or may die while fighting the pandemic.
Ratification seen Monday
The bicameral panel will continue its discussions on the proposed Bayanihan 2 law on Thursday, with the respective ratification of both houses expected on Monday next week.
In a radio interview, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said they would try to finish the bicameral meeting on Thursday so they could ratify the bill on Monday.
"Mamayang alas-10 po mayroon na naman kaming pagpupulong at sisikapin naming matapos hanggang mamayang gabi at mara-ratify ito sa Lunes," Drilon, a member of the bicam committee, said.
He stressed that one of the bottlenecks is the disagreeing provision on assistance to the tourism sector.
But despite Drilon's remark, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said a ratification is still possible within the day.
"Tuloy 'yun. Already mandated by my pronouncement... [We] will wait for the bicam report if necessary," Sotto said in a message to reporters.
Meanwhile, in the same radio interview, Drilon said the government can only fund a portion of the P162-billion budget under Bayanihan 2.
"P162 billion pero ang mapopondohan pa lang o mapupunuan muna sang-ayon sa DOF (Department of Finance) ay P140 billion, 'yung P22 billion ay tinatwag nating standby authority—kapag mayroon nang bagong source of revenue ay puwede pong i-implement," he said.
The Senate initially allocated P140 billion for the measure, following the recommendation of the DOF. —KBK, GMA News