House okays 2nd ‘Bayanihan’ bill

House okays 2nd ‘Bayanihan’ bill

By Fernan Angeles

OVERWHELMING best describes the manner in which the House of Representatives approved the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2, outlining P162 billion-worth of response interventions to help the country recover from the COVID-19 crisis and boost the economy.

With a vote of 242 in the affirmative, six in the negative, and zero abstentions, the lower chamber approved House Bill 6953, which President Rodrigo Duterte urged Congress to work on during his fifth State of the Nation Address. Under its version of the second Bayanihan Law, Congress appropriates P162 billion standby fund to support government response measures to address the global pandemic.

Stipulation under the House version of the bill includes: • P10 billion for PhilHealth COVID-19 Coverage • P10.5 billion for hiring of additional Health Care Workers and arrangements for risk allowance, life insurance, compensation, and compensation for death and critical illness • P3 billion for purchase of PPEs for frontliners and indigents • P4 billion for construction of quarantine and isolation facilities • P20 billion for the implementation of cash-for-work programs • P51 billion for the infusion of new capital for government financial institutions, to expand credit • P20 billion for low-interest credit for the agriculture sector • P10 billion for programs for the transport sector • P10 billion for tourism development programs • P100 million for training tourist guides • P3 billion for smart, ICT-ready education facilities in state universities and colleges • P600 million for subsidies for qualitied students in private tertiary education institutions • P300 million for subsidies for personnel of private tertiary education institutions and part-time personnel of state universities and colleges • P1 billion for additional scholarship funds for TESDA • P12 billion for DSWD programs such as AICS, emergency subsidies for areas on hard lockdown, sustainable livelihood programs, and supplemental feeding • P4 billion to assist DepEd prepare classrooms for digital education • P1.5 billion for assistance for local government units • P180 million to finance athletes whose allowances were reduced due to COVID-19 • P820 million for assistance for DFA programs for displaced migrant workers

The measure provides for the grant of cash subsidy to affected families in the informal sector living in enhanced community quarantine areas whose income does not exceed the applicable regional minimum wage rate. It also provides appropriate cash for work for displaced workers due to COVID-19, or wage subsidy for employees of affected business in the formal sector.

Medical front liners who have been infected in the line of duty also get P100,000 compensation, while P1 million will be given to public and private health workers who have died or may die while fighting the pandemic. The measure hinted on a provision waiving the requirement of Phase IV trials for COVID-19 medication and vaccines stipulated in the Universal Healthcare Law to fast-track their procurement and distribution.

The measure would be fully in effect only until December 31 this year the moment the President affixes his signature on it, but only after both the Senate, which passed its version of the measure outlining P140 billion-worth of economic recovery interventions and the House of Representatives reconcile their respective version through a bicameral conference.

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