House approves Bayanihan 2 on final reading

The second Bayanihan measure, this time aimed at addressing economic recovery efforts amid the continued COVID-19 crisis, hurdled on Monday third and final reading in the House of Representatives.


In a virtual plenary session, 242 congressmen voted for the approval of House Bill 6953 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Bill.  Six members thumbed down the measure.

With the approval, HB 6953 will now be sent to the bicameral conference committee for consolidation and fine tuning with the Senate’s version that was approved two weeks ago by senators.

Congressmen are proposing a P162 billion standby fund to finance various interventions that would address health and economic recovery efforts notwithstanding the still rising COVID-19 cases in the country.

“This, hopefully, begins to turn the economic tides for the better.  This will not be the beginning of the end,” said Albay Rep. Joey Sarte-Salceda, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, as he admitted that the introduction of a COVID-19 vaccine remains the hope for normalcy in the country.

The Makabayan bloc, composed of six party-list lawmakers, voted against the measure.

In observance of the forthcoming Linggo ng Wikang Filipino (National Language Week),  four solons spoke in Filipino to explain their votes.

Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said HB 6953 that follows up on the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act is not expected to succeed in achieving its goals.

“Iisa lang ang ating masusuma: bigo ang Bayanihan to Heal as One Act para paghilumin ang bansa sa krisis na pinalala ng pandemya ng COVID-19 (The only conclusion: Bayanihan to Heal as One Act failed to heal the nation facing a crisis that was made worst by the COVID-19 pandemic).

According to Zarate, Bayanihan II’s predecessor failed in delivering free mass testing, immediate contact tracing, and was slow in the distribution of cash assistance to poor Filipinos.

“With a P162 billion appropriations tag, BARGO hardly reflects the billions in foreign borrowings made by the Duterte regime supposedly for COVID-19 responses.  This is embarrassingly a very small amount that hoists a false sense of recovery amid the nosedive of the local economy,” said Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas.

The funding allocation provided under the bill are as follows:

- P10 billion as subsidy to the National Health Insurance Program of PhilHealth to be used solely to cover COVID-19 expanded testing based on DOH Protocol and for allocation of COVID-19 confinements (inpatients) 

- P10.5 billion – Hiring of additional Health Care Workers and arrangements for risk allowance, life insurance, compensation, and compensation for death and critical illness 

 -P3 billion for procurement of face masks, personal protective equipment (PPE) sets for frontliners and indigents 

-P4 billion to finance the construction of temporary medical isolation and quarantine facilities, field hospitals, dormitories for frontliners, and for the expansion of government hospital capacity all over the country

 - P20 billion for the implementation of appropriate cash-for-work programs for displaced workers

- P51 billion for the infusion of capital to government financial institutions as their infusion of new capital

-P20 billion to provide direct cash or loan interest rate subsidies, under the programs of the Department of Agriculture- Agricultural Credit Policy Council (DA-ACPC)
 - P10 billion to finance the programs of the DOTr to assist the critically impacted businesses in the transportation industry

 - P10 billion to finance the programs of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) assisting the recovery of the tourism industry that shall include the provision of tourism infrastructures

 - P100 million to finance the training and subsidies for tourist guides

 - P3 billion to assist state universities and colleges in the development of smart campuses through investments in ICT infrastructure

- P600 million for subsidies and allowances to qualified students of public and private Tertiary Education Institutions

- P300 million for subsidies and allowances of affected teaching and non-teaching personnel, including part time faculty, in private and public Tertiary Education Institutions

- P1 billion as additional scholarship funds of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority       

- P12 billion to finance programs of the Department of Social Welfare and Development

- P4 billion to assist the Department of Education in the implementation of Digital Education, Information Technology (IT) and Digital Infrastructures and Alternative Learning Modalities 

- P1.5 billion as assistance to local government units (LGUs) 

-P180 million to finance allowances for national athletes and coaches whose allowances were reduced to 50 percent due to the pandemic 

-P820 million as assistance for Department of Foreign Affairs  programs for displaced migrant workers.

Mandatory health measures

The House of Representatives on Monday voted unanimously to pass on third and final reading a bill that would make several health and safety measures mandatory in all parts of the country.

All 245 congressmen present during the virtual regular session approved the measure that will make mandatory the wearing of face masks in public areas and work places and the observance of physical and social distancing.
Temperature checking of persons entering a business establishment, government building, workplaces and other enclosed public areas will be mandatory.

House Bill 6864, the Better Normal for the Workplace, Communities and
Public Spaces Act of 2020 was authored by House officials led by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.

HB 6864 also proposes a number of measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID 19 and protect citizens from infection of the dreaded disease.

For their part, owners, managers and administrators of public spaces and work areas will set up hand-washing facilities and sanitizing stations, aside from ensuring temperature checks for all persons entering the premises.

A one-meter physical distancing between individuals will also be mandatory in public areas.

The bill also seeks to promote “contact-less” payment schemes in public transportation.

On the other hand, the Department of Education is tasked to development, implement and promote a learning program that will be flexible in order to protect teachers and students.

HB 6864 proposes to impose imprisonment of one to two months and fines ranging from ₱1,000 to ₱50,000 or both on violators.