House ratifies Bayanihan 2 stimulus measure

The House of Representatives on Monday unanimously ratified the Bicameral Conference Committee Report on the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2 that scrapped its proposal for a P10-billion allocation for tourism infrastructure.       

With the ratification, the consolidated House and Senate version of the bill will now be enrolled for approval by President Duterte.      

Before adopting the report, senior congressmen took the floor to air their gripe over criticisms aired by Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon against the Lower House’s bid to provide the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprises Zone Administration a P10-billion allocation to finance construction of roads and toilets in tourism areas.       

Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. Elray Villafuerte, together with Minority Leader and Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante; Reps. Robert Ace Barbers (NP, Surigao del Norte) and Jonathan Sy Alvarado (NUP, Cavite)  took exception to alleged insinuations made by senators that congressmen had personal motives in inserting the questioned provision.

Sotto and Drilon had taken pride in blocking Lower House bid to give TIEZA P10-billion, noting that this is not a priority as an objective of the Bayanihan 2.

Sy-Alvarado hit back at Drilon by citing a Facebook post of a certain
Metro Manila Daily News that claimed that the senator allegedly defended a P10-billion funding for tourism projects in Iloilo.     

The information could not be verified.      

Meanwhile, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman entertained reservations in registering an affirmative vote to the bicameral report.

“Despite an expanding war chest against the COVID-19 pandemic, the relief and stimulus packages provided for in Bayanihan 2 are pathetically meager,” said Lagman.

“The appropriation of the relief and stimulus packages in Bayanihan 2 is a minuscule P165.5 billion despite the expanding war chest of the Philippines to address the pandemic and with the country having the greatest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia,” he said.

According to Lagman the proposed allocation is “less than 60% of the P275 billion appropriation for Bayanihan 1 when the contagion started, and is only 12% of the P1.3 trillion appropriation for the ARISE (Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy) bill which the House has approved on third and final reading.”

However, the veteran solon  noted that more than P1 trillion had been raised by the Bureau of Treasury from foreign grants and loans from various international and domestic loan sources such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the International Investment and Infrastructure Bank.

“Are these foreign and domestic borrowings also under lockdown? Or are they reserved for some partisan enterprise?” he asked.

According to Lagman, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno revealed  on August 1, 2020 that the Philippines was able to access P8.2 billion in borrowings for anti-COVID 19 measures.

On the other hand, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez disclosed on August 15, 2020 that the World Bank will approve financing for another $1.9-B in projects for the Philippines before yearend to help the economy recover from the COVID-19 induced recession.           

In addition to the released and committed foreign grants and loans, the Bureau of National Treasury has raised P1.2 trillion as of June 30, 2020. Moreover, auctions for the Premyo Bonds (Retail Treasury Bonds)  fetched P516.3 billion in early August, 2020 and more will be generated because new auctions are scheduled.