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Bayanihan 2 now up for Duterte's signature

The proposed P165-billion Bayanihan to Recover As One Act is now up for President Rodrigo Duterte's signature after the House of Representatives on Monday ratified the bicameral committee report on the said measure.

During the resumption of its session this afternoon, the chamber ratified the bicameral committee report on House Bill 6953 and Senate Bill 1564 after the panel wrapped up its deliberations last week.

President Rodrigo Duterte urged Congress to pass the second Bayanihan law during his 5th State of the Nation Address on July 27.

The Senate has already ratified the bicameral report in its session last Thursday.

The House initially proposed a P162-billion funding under its version of the proposed Bayanihan 2 law, higher than the P140 billion that the Senate recommended.

In the end, Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte said the Senate and House panel agreed to set the funding to P165 billion "to accommodate all COVID-battered sectors that have sought immediate government assistance in the face of the likely protracted battle with the coronavirus pandemic.”

Under the final version of the proposed Bayanihan 2 Law, P50 billion will be allocated 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.

"We in the bicam panel have agreed that the P50 billion will be made available as loans to all the affected sectors instead of specific amounts or portions being earmarked for certain sectors as originally sought by some groups," Villafuerte said.

Like the first Bayanihan Law, the current bill also provides a P5,000 to P8,000 subsidy to affected low income households in areas under granular lockdown and those with recently returned overseas Filipino workers, as well as 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.

Aside from these, the final bill also calls for the temporary suspension of the requirements needed to secure permits and clearances of telecommunications and Internet infrastructure to upgrade the country's connectivity, Villafuerte said.

It 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, he added.

A total of P13.5 billion has also been allotted for health-related responses, including the payment of P100,000 hazard pay for healthcare workers, 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.

Meanwhile, 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.

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.

Following the ratification of both houses of Congress, the enrolled bill can now be sent to the President for his signature. —LDF, GMA News