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Velasco proposes P420-B ‘Bayanihan 3’ bill

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House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has filed a measure proposing a third Bayanihan Law with P420 billion-worth of funds to aid the country’s economic recovery amid the ongoing pandemic.

In a statement, Velasco said 115 members of major political parties and blocs in the House have signified their intent to co-author House Bill No. 8628, which he had filed with Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo.

He claimed that the two previous Bayanihan Laws were insufficient for the country’s “genuine economic recovery” even if it increased the government’s capacity to respond to the health crisis.

Velasco noted that the country’s economy contracted by 9.5 percent overall in 2020, the worst since World War II, as cited by national statisticians.

Household consumption has also gone down, he added, contributing 5.7 percent to the total 9.5 percent annual reduction in output in 2020.

Further losses may still be incurred as the Covid-19 pandemic is expected to prevail well into the current fiscal year, he noted.

“An additional economic stimulus package is needed to help the government meet its recovery targets for the year,” Velasco said.

The proposed P420-billion appropriation under Bayanihan 3 measure he had filed includes P52-billion aid to small businesses, P100-billion support for the capacity-building of businesses in critically impacted sectors, and P108-billion additional relief packages of the social department.

His proposed measure also seeks to allocate P70-billion aid to farmers, livestock producers, and fishermen; P30 billion for unemployment assistance and cash-for-work programs under the labor department, P30 billion for internet allowances to students and teachers in public and private educational institutions.

Also included in the proposed budget were a P5-billion fund for rehabilitation of typhoon-affected areas, as well as P25-billion support for the procurement of Covid-19 medication and vaccines, as well as information awareness campaigns.

Velasco said the government should take the lead to promote business and consumer confidence and social welfare since “uncertainty is the primary effect this pandemic has on every aspect of our lives.”

The second Bayanihan Law had lapsed by end-December.

In early January, President Rodrigo Duterte extended the validity of appropriations under the law until June 30, 2021.

He also enacted a law which extends the availability of appropriations under the 2020 General Appropriations Act until the end of 2021.

The extension of the two appropriation measures would push the spending authority of the government to about P4.8 trillion this year, including the P4.506-trillion budget for 2021.

Lawmakers also filed their own versions of the Bayanihan 3 seeking free vaccination and assistance to the agriculture, health, and education sectors, even if Senate President Vicente Sotto III previously said he felt a third iteration of the law is no longer necessary.

Quimbo earlier filed her own Bayanihan 3 bill, which shares the name proposed by Velasco, outlining interventions amounting to P400 billion.

Another Bayanihan 3 measure was jointly filed by House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez and two other lawmakers, with P247 billion-worth of emergency response and programs to jumpstart the economy.

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