By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The Senate will be preparing a multi-billion peso economic stimulus package to help the country recover from the recession brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns imposed to curb its spread.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the measure will be crafted after the government’s economic managers have briefed members of the upper chamber about the country’s COVID-19 response efforts and the required resources to mitigate its economic impact.
In a video conference with reporters before its Wednesday session, Sotto confirmed that the Senate will begin its inquiry as a committee of the whole on the COVID-19 situation starting Monday, May 11.
“The Senate gave me the authority to convene, making me the chair of the committee of the whole and we will invite economic managers. Most probably I will schedule it Monday,” he said, adding that they are set to adopt a resolution on the matter.
On the following days, May 12-13, heads of the Department of Health, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Transportation and other agencies concerned with the novel coronavirus situation will be called to give updates and answer questions from senators.
Sotto said he hopes to come up with committee of the whole’s report by Thursday, May 14.
The House of Representatives has started its deliberations on the economic stimulus bills that would jumpstart the local economy following the COVID-19 outbreak.
Congressmen are currently looking at passing a P485 billion economic stimulus package.
Meanwhile, Sotto said he has not received word from Malacañang about the need for a “Bayanihan to Heal as One 2” legislation.
It was Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri who broached this idea on Monday, stressing the need to include micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) as well as large-scale industries in the government’s assistance programs.
The bill could also expand the coverage of the emergency subsidy program for families displaced by the pandemic.
Sotto, however, maintained his position that there is no need for another law for such assistance programs emphasizing that the Bayanihan to Heal as Once Act (RA 11469) already gave the President all the necessary powers, including the realignment of funds, for effectively responding to the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.