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Speaker says third stimulus enjoys broad support in House

A MAJORITY of the membership of the House of Representatives supports the proposed third Bayanihan economic stimulus package worth P420 billion, Speaker Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco said.

In a statement Tuesday, Mr. Velasco said House Bill No. 8628 or the proposed Bayanihan to Arise as One Act is backed by 162 members, including those belonging to the supermajority, minority and independent blocs.

The proposed P420-billion package is designed to help the economy recover from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. It was filed last week by the Speaker and Marikina City 2nd District Representative Stella Luz A. Quimbo.

Among the bill’s supporters is Albay 2nd District Rep. Jose Ma. Clemente S. Salceda, who cited the bill’s provisions aiding businesses and individuals.

“In the pursuit of an economic rebound, restoring public trust and confidence in social and economic institutions is essential… Thus, it is important that the government take the lead in promoting business confidence and social welfare through increased, well-targeted spending,” he said in a statement.

Deputy Speaker and Ilocos Sur 2nd District Rep. Kristine Singson-Meehan said in a statement that the bill addresses the needs of sectors whose recovery is crucial.

“The sectors that will benefit from the interventions provided for in the bill are well-targeted, which provides an assurance that the proposed funds won’t go to waste and… will surely help the economy recover from COVID-19,” she said.

The third Bayanihan package includes P108 billion for social amelioration program assistance to families affected by the pandemic; P100 billion for capacity-building of establishments from critically impacted industries; P70 billion for capacity-building for workers in the agriculture; and P52 billion for subsidies to help small businesses retain their employees.

The fund also lists P30 billion for the labor department’s programs for the unemployed; P30 billion for internet expenses for educational institutions; and P5 billion for the rehabilitation of typhoon-affected areas.

The first Bayanihan package, the Bayanihan to Health as One Act, was signed on March 2020. It gave President Rodrigo R. Duterte special powers to realign the 2020 budget for programs worth P275 billion to address the government’s immediate needs in response to the initial lockdown, including assistance to poor families. The second Bayanihan law, the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, was signed in September and was valued at P140 billion, supplemented by about P20.5 in additional funding subject to availability.

Separately, 30 legislators signed House Resolution No. 1558, which called for an investigation into the use of Bayanihan II funds. AAMBIS-OWA Party-list Rep. Sharon L. Garin said only P76.2 billion from the second package was released as of November. She called further delays in utilizing the funds a “disservice” to the country.

“The pandemic is now only a month shy from reaching its first year and the country is still reeling from the impact of an economic nosedive. If we don’t act on this, the economic revival we all hope for will not materialize,” she said. — Gillian M. Cortez

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