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Congress to tackle Bayanihan II extension next

THE SENATE and the House of Representatives will focus next on extending the validity of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan II), after the chambers concluded their discussions on the 2021 spending plan.

The chambers are looking at extending the Bayanihan II law, or Republic Act No. 11494, will expire on Dec. 19, until March or June 2021.

Iniisip namin until March, but s’yempre depende pa ‘yan… kung sa tingin natin hindi pa na-utilize lahat, pwede pa natin i-extend longer (We are thinking of an extension to March, but that will depend on whether we are capable of utilizing the funds; if so we will consider a longer extension),” House Appropriations Committee Chairman and ACT-CIS Representative Eric G. Yap said in a livestreamed briefing.

Six bills are pending with the House panel extending the effectivity of the Bayanihan II law, which provided up to P165 billion worth of assistance to sectors hit by the pandemic. The bills contemplate extensions until January, March or June.

Meanwhile, the panel has approved House Bill No. 6656, extending the validity of the 2020 budget until December 2021. He noted that the chamber is awaiting notice certifying the bill as urgent to expedite its approval in the plenary.

Inaantay na lang namin na ma-certify as urgent ng Malacañang (We are waiting for the Palace to certify it as urgent) then we can finish that today until third reading,” he said.

Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara, that chamber’s Finance committee chairman, said the Senate is considering extending the Bayanihan II until June 2021; and some provisions of the P4.1-trillion 2020 national budget until June or December 2021.

“We’re looking at… March, perhaps June; Whereas, for the 2020 (national budget), we’re studying either June or December next year, but we have to look at the items, I suppose that we are extending,” he said.

Two bills are pending in the Senate, one extending the Bayanihan II until December 2021, and the other extending selected provisions of the same law and the 2020 spending plan until March 2021. He noted that Congress has passed measures extending the validity of the 2018 and 2019 spending plans.

He also said the certification “will make a big difference” considering that Congress has until Dec. 19, or four session days, to act on measures before it goes on a month-long break. The certification will allow Congress to do away with the three-day interval in passing bills on second and third reading.

“It’s a bit tight honestly, so (the) certification will make a big difference (because) we only have four session days left including today. Without the certification the extension doesn’t look good,” he said. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

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