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Bayanihan III nears final House approval

Tall buildings are seen from the Baseco compound, May 25. The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on second reading the Bayanihan to Arise as One bill. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

THE HOUSE of Representatives on Tuesday evening approved on second reading the proposed P401-billion economic stimulus measure, which seeks to drive recovery with additional support for pandemic-hit businesses and families.

House Bill No. 9411 or the Bayanihan to Arise as One Act (Bayanihan III) was passed by lawmakers via viva voce voting.

AMBIS-OWA Party-list Rep. Sharon Garin told reporters on Wednesday that there is a rush to pass the third stimulus bill on final reading before Congress’ sine die adjournment on June 4.

“Yesterday we did some…amendments by substitution… Rightfully so, maa-approve siya (the bill will be approved) before we adjourn next week,” she added.

Since it is not certified by Malacañang as urgent, Bayanihan III can only be approved on third and final reading next week. Under the Congress’ rules, a bill can only be passed on third reading three session days after it was approved on second reading.

As of Wednesday, there are 297 members of the House who signed to be the authors of the measure.

Ms. Garin said the stimulus fund’s amount was adjusted to P401 billion from P405.6 billion, to reflect the priority programs.

However, Bayanihan III still lacks a certification from the Treasury that funds are available for its implementation. This is a requirement for special appropriations bills on Section 25 of the 1987 Constitution.

While the Senate and the Executive department are hesitant to support the stimulus measure, Ms. Garin said their concern over funding sources can be further discussed.

“We continue our dialogue with (National Treasurer Rosalia V. de Leon), to (Finance) Secretary (Carlos G. Dominguez III)… we continue. The communication is regular…kahit hindi pa tapos ’yan (even if we are still not finished with the talks) we are in the opinion that we do need this now and we are passing this kasi kailangan talaga natin (because we really need it),” she said.

Lawmakers earlier identified the bill’s potential funding sources such as the realignment of the 2019 and 2020 national budgets; expanding the minimum required remittances of government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs); and giving the President the authority to withdraw capital from overcapitalized GOCCs, among others.

The main feature of Bayanihan III is the “Ayuda (aid) for All” which will provide P2,000 for all Filipinos regardless of social status, given out in two tranches. 

“We decided to prioritize ayuda for all… and additional ayuda according to need,” Marikina Representative and the bill’s primary author Stella Luz A. Quimbo said.

Bayanihan III will also provide assistance for workers and businesses affected by the lockdowns; areas affected by disasters; fund pensions of military personnel; and other critical sectors affected by the ongoing crisis. It also includes additional allocations for cooperatives and higher education.

The Philippines remains in a recession, after gross domestic product (GDP) fell by an annual 4.2% in the first quarter of 2021.

The worse-than-expected first-quarter GDP, coupled with the spike in COVID-19 cases and lockdown restrictions in late March to April, prompted the government to slash its growth targets to 6-7% from 6.5-7.5% penciled in last December 2020.

However, this was still an improvement from the record 9.6% contraction in 2020. — GMC

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