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House Speaker vows plenary OK of Bayanihan 3

AS talks between the Department of Finance (DOF) and lawmakers on funding sources for a third Covid-19 relief package continue to progress, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Tuesday vowed that the House will hasten the plenary approval of the proposed Bayanihan 3 law once it resumes session on May 17.

Velasco assured the public that the lower chamber is constantly communicating with the DOF as to the funding sources for Bayanihan 3 or the Bayanihan to Arise As One Act.

“Just a few more discussions with DOF and we could pass this already,” said Velasco.

“As soon as we get back on May 17, we will fast-track the approval of Bayanihan 3,” the House leader said.

Velasco issued the statement after three House committees approved during the break the substitute bill to several Bayanihan 3 measures, including House Bill 8628, which he and Marikina City Second District Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo had filed.

The substitute bill only needs the approval of the House Committee on Appropriations before it can be reported to the plenary for approval on second and third readings.

The House Committees on Economic Affairs, on Social Services and on Ways and Means recently approved a P405.6-billion Bayanihan 3, which includes two rounds of cash aid amounting to P1,000 per Filipino.

The cash aid, totaling P216 billion, would be given to all 108 million Filipinos regardless of social status.

To raise funds for Bayanihan 3, Congress seeks to authorize the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to make additional advances with or without interest to the national government to finance expenditures authorized by law to address and respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It also wants to increase from 50 percent to 75 percent the mandatory dividend remittances by government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs) and to grant the President the power to withdraw capital from overcapitalized GOCCs.

The proposal to raise the dividend remittances by GOCCs was supported by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.

In pushing for Bayanihan 3, Velasco said that while the two previous Bayanihan laws have increased the government’s initial capacity to respond to the pandemic, these were “not sufficient for the genuine economic recovery of the country.”

Under the substitute bill, around P12 billion shall be also appropriated for assistance for households in crisis situations under the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Some P12- billion standby fund shall be appropriated for Phase 2 and P6-billion standby fund for Phase 3 of the AICS program.

The Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) program shall be continued and expanded with a direct funding of P8 billion, and standby funds worth P8 billion for Phase 2 and P4 billion for Phase 3 to assist micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

To provide temporary employment to displaced workers, around P10 billion shall be appropriated for the implementation of the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Displaced/Disadvantaged Workers (TUPAD), Covid-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP), and Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) Program, while P10 billion shall be appropriated as standby funds for Phase 2 and P5 billion for Phase 3.

Assistance to the agri-fishery sector will receive a total of P30 billion worth of standby funds to finance programs and interventions toward food security and farmer income security and welfare.

The bill also allocates P3 billion for medical assistance for indigent patients, and standby funds worth P3 billion each for Phases 2 and 3.

Also, a total of P54.6 billion shall be allocated to the Pension and Gratuity Fund for retired military and the police, while the amount of P5.6 billion shall be appropriated to assist the Department of Education in the implementation of its digital education, information technology, and digital infrastructure and alternative learning modalities as part of pandemic response and transition to a new normal.

The Bayanihan 3 also said standby funds worth P5 billion each shall be allocated for the implementation of the Masustansyang Pagkain para sa Batang Pilipino Act and Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act, both of which are aimed at providing national nutrition.

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