"Go big" on next COVID-19 relief package, Velasco tells government

Published May 11, 2021, 7:23 PM

by Ben Rosario

House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Tuesday, May 11 advised government to “go big” in making available another relief package to address the devastating effects of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic even as the country’s gross domestic product dwindled by 4.2 percent in the first quarter of 2021, reportedly marking the longest recession faced by the country in recent history.

“As COVID-19 continues to negatively affect the economy, there’s a growing consensus among members of the House of Representatives that the best tool to prevent a long economic downturn is for the government to go big on another relief package,” Velasco said in a statement issued late afternoon on Tuesday.

Velasco made the suggestion as the Lower House is set to take up for plenary action the Bayanihan to Arise as One Act or Bayanihan 3 which provides for a P405.6 billion economic stimulus package aired at addressing the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.

Resumption of regular sessions start May 17.

The House leader, one of the authors of Bayanihan 3 bill, vowed to speed up passage of the measure. The legislative proposal consolidated provisions of six stimulus bills that will authorize government to distribute P1,000 for each Filipino citizen living in the country.

“The passage of the proposed Bayanihan 3 law—which proposes a P405.6-billion fund to stimulate the nation’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis—has become more imperative as the country’s gross domestic product fell 4.2 percent in the first quarter of 2021 from a year earlier, marking the fifth straight quarter of declines amid pandemic-induced lockdowns,” Velasco stated.

He said: “The government needs to infuse a substantial amount into the economy by providing much-needed aid to individuals, businesses and communities severely affected by the health crisis.” The House official is convinced that “government expenditure is the only immediate recourse to pump prime the economy.” “There is also an urgent need to address the slowdown in the construction industry which, at negative 24.2 percent, is a major contributor in the decline of our GDP. With private sector infrastructure at a standstill, the government should take the lead in reinvigorating our construction sector,” he said.

Velasco also appealed to the Executive Department to ensure the “immediate and full implementation of the “Build, Build, Build” flagship infrastructure program of the Duterte government.

“We ask the Department of Budget and Management and the Department of Public Works and Highways to address delays in the implementation of government construction projects, and to proceed in helping the economy and the country bounce back better,” the Speaker stated.