HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez yesterday said he is hoping that the newly-ratified P165.5 billion “Babangon Tayo Fund” or the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) roadmap for economic recovery will give an initial life-restoring boost to the country’s economy.
“The Babangon Fund is focused on Kaligtasan, Kabuhayan, at Kaunlaran of Filipinos. This will help strengthen government’s COVID-19 response capabilities and hasten the rehabilitation and recovery of businesses and industries affected by the pandemic,” Romualdez, chairman of the powerful House Committee on Rules, said.
“The law empowered the national government and local government units to respond to the crisis, enabling us to slow down the rate of infection and spare our people from starvation caused by community quarantines,” Romualdez, both President of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) and Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), explained.
As of press time, Romualdez said Congress is rushing the Palace transmittal of the enrolled bill or the final version of the “Babangon Tayo Fund”, also known as Bayanihan to Recover as One Act 2 for President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte’s signature.
“We expect the enactment into law of this measure by September,” said Romualdez, the chairman of the powerful House committee on rule. The bicameral conference committee adopted last week the 40 key provisions in the House version of the Babangon Fund.
Romualdez said Babangon Tayo Fund has provisions that would allow the chamber to scrutinize the strict implementation of programs related to COVID-19 response and emergency subsidy to cash strapped individuals.
This time, however, Romualdez said Congress is mandated that the “vetting and validation of beneficiaries of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP), and the related liquidation report thereto shall be simplified to expedite the distribution of the subsidy.”
Romualdez also noted that the law now mandates all government agencies concerned to submit to Congress a definitive and actual list of SAP beneficiaries.
Citing opinions from the Duterte administration’s economic team, Romualdez said lawmakers allocated the Babangon Tayo Fund to programs that the country needed most to address the COVID-19.
“Given the budget limitations, we deemed it wise to allocate our scarce resources to where they matter the most,” Romualdez said.
Romualdez said the P140-billion of the P165.5 billion has available funds while the remaining P25.5 billion will be rolled out when the government finds the revenue for it, including the P10 billion for COVID-19 vaccines.
To accelerate the rehabilitation and recovery of businesses and industries, the final version of Babangon Tayo Fund has set aside the biggest share of the proposed P165-billion budget for soft loans to badly-hit groups such as micro, small and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs), transport, tourism and agriculture sectors to help them get back on their feet the soonest.
He said the Bayanihan to Recover as One Bill or Bayanihan 2 is extending the emergency powers granted to President Duterte under Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which lapsed on June 5.
Once signed into law by President Duterte, he will have the emergency powers extended until December 19, the adjournment of Congress for Christmas break.
TASK FOR AGAINST COVID-19 THANKS CONGRESS LEADERS
The National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 expressed its gratitude to both houses of Congress, especially to Romualdez, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Deputy Speaker Luis Raymond Villafuerte Jr., Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri for ratifying the bicameral committee report on the proposed Bayanihan to Recover As One Act and recognizing the urgent need to implement measures and programs that will mitigate the impact of COVID-19.
“The swift action of Congress is a testament to the Whole-of-Nation approach needed to fight COVID-19. The Bayanihan to Recover As One Act will greatly benefit the nation, especially sectors severely affected by this health crisis,” said NTF Chairman and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
“We thank our leaders in Congress, for shepherding this very important measure. Truly by working together, we will recover as one,” Lorenzana added.
National Action Plan (NAP) Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. said the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act is critical to ramp up the implementation of the NAP. Phase II of the National Plan is anchored on the Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat-Reintegrate (PDITR) Strategy of the government.
Galvez noted that in the recently ratified bicam report, Congress allotted P3 billion for the procurement of face masks, personal protective equipment, shoe covers and face shields; P5 billion to finance the hiring of at least 50,000 contact tracers to be implemented by the Department of Interior and Local Government; and P4.5 billion for the construction and maintenance of isolation facilities including billing of hotels, food and transportation, among others.
“The support of Congress will strengthen the national government’s pandemic response efforts in balancing the health of the people and the recovery of our economy” said Galvez.
Deputy Chief Implementer and Testing Czar Secretary Vince Dizon added that the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act also provides a P10 billion standby fund for COVID-19 testing and procurement of COVID-19 medication and vaccine.
“Congress’ approval of the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act will help us further ramp up our testing capacity nationwide. The first Bayanihan law allowed us to strengthen our testing efforts, with the Philippines now at the top in conducting the most number of COVID-19 tests compared to our Southeast Asian neighbors,” Dizon said.