Duterte report on Heal as One Act reaches House

THE House leadership has named the composition of the four-member Joint Congressional Oversight Committee led by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano tasked to ensure the strict and efficient implementation of the economic relief for the benefits of around 18 million low income households, frontliners and other contingency measures to defeat coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic under the “Heal as One Act of 2020."

This developed as House Secretary General Atty. Jose Luis G. Montales confirmed that the 19-page pilot report of President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte to Congress on the implementation of “Heal as One Act of 2020" or Republic Act (RA) No. 11469 had already reached the House of Representatives.

“We received the report,” Montales said in a text message, adding that the leadership designated Cayetano, Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte Jr., House committee on appropriations chairman and ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap, and House Minority Leader and Manila Rep. Bienvenido M. Abante, Jr. as members of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee.

In his report, Duterte ordered all government agencies through the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to use its funds from 2019 and 2020 national budget to support their activities aimed at curbing COVID-19.

These include, according to the report, the P53.2 million budget of the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) for the production of 1,300 COVID-19 testing kits for 26,000 tests, delivery, training for the administration of the tests and genome sequencing validation; P108.7 billion for Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program; P23.9 billion for Social Pension for Indigent Filipino Citizens; P6.6 billion for Assistance for Indigents in Crisis Situation and P1.2 billion Quick Response Fund (QRF) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD); P9.4 billion Medical Assistance to Indigent Patients and P600 million QRF of the Department of Health (DoH); P4.3 billion for the Tulong Pangkabuhayan sa Ating Disadvantaged or Displaced Workers Program (TUPAD) and Government Intership Program of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE).

According to DoLE, the total amount disbursed for COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program and TUPAD are now at P95.4 million.

Duterte also said the DBM has already started preparing a master list of all items categorized as "for late release" under a special purpose fund (SPF) worth P372.2 billion.

The SPF will include budgetary support to government corporations and allocation to local government units.

To ensure uninterrupted access to cash, Duterte said the Department of Finance (DoF) and Bureau of Treasury added P300 billion to its cash reserves by securing a repurchase agreement facility with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

Meanwhile, the President said the Inter-Agency Task Force for Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases already approved the Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) for the implementation guidelines of the Emergency Subsidy Program (ESP).

Duterte added the JMC serves as a guide to streamline social amelioration programs of the DSWD, DOLE, Department of Agriculture (DA), and local government units (LGUs), among others, to mitigate the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19.

The ESP includes the provision of cash or non-cash subsidy for low-income household beneficiaries amounting from P5,000 to P8,000 per month for 2 months.

The subsidy amount for Metro Manila is 8,000; CAR (5,500) Region 1 (5,500) Region 2 (5,500), Region 3 (6,500), Region 4A (6,500), Region 4B (5,000), Region 5 (5,000), Region 6 (6,000), Region 7 (6,000), Region 8 (5,000), Region 9 (5,000), Region 10 (6,000), Region 11 (6,000), Region 12 (5,000), CARAGA (5,000) and ARMM (5,000).

Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, chairman of the committee on ways and means who co-authored the Bayanihan Act, thanked Duterte for instructing the Cabinet to roll out the ESP of P5,000 to P8,000 a month per family and for expanding texting capacity, following the President’s message to the public on March 30.

Salceda said the rollout of the ESP will act as an incentive for families to comply with social distancing measures. “The quick rollout of the ESP will help us keep families at home.

Kapag wala na kasing pera, lalabas talaga ‘yan para makapaghanapbuhay. Or in the worst conditions, be forced to violate the law.

We’re definitely not yet in recovery stage but we want to keep society from reaching a stage of desperation for now, while we’re still in survival mode,” said Salceda.

“I would like to thank President Duterte for considering the proposal to expand the coverage to include basic sectors such as tricycle drivers and lactating and pregnant women,” Salceda added.

Before the release of the draft memorandum on the implementation of the ESP, Salceda submitted to Duterte and the Cabinet a rollout plan for the subsidy package.

Salceda also thanked Duterte for instructing the Cabinet to increase testing capacity. “I’m thankful because testing has become, with the President’s instructions, a key piece of this puzzle. Our decisions, moving forward, will have to be driven by data, and case confirmations via testing is the most important data-gathering process in this entire effort,” said Salceda.

Salceda submitted a separate report to the Chief Executive outlining a strategy centered on a more targeted response to COVID-19 to be determined by more case data.

His report advocated for both mass testing wherever possible and widespread random testing with contact tracing in places where community transmission is suspected. nIn response to Duterte’s announcement that the economic team is configuring an economic stimulus plan, Salceda said that government officials and private sector leaders seek his advice on what economic strategy to pursue.

“I continue to send detailed reports to the economic team and the private sector. I’m preparing for the macro-fiscal implications as Ways and Means Chair, but more importantly, I’m using my access to both the private and public sectors to bridge ideas together.

Definitely, the private sector spends money faster and generally invests it better than the public sector does, so the short-term aspect of the stimulus plan will have to focus on boosting the private sector and ensuring that they stay in business,” said Salceda.

“Sayang nga ‘yung CITIRA. You have to credit the foresight of the President – he asked us in Congress to pass that January 2018 pa. If we had that now, we would have been able to invite investors looking for better global markets outside the developed world, kasi papasok sa 4-6-quarter recession ang mundo. Pero tayo positive territory na after 3 quarters. Some version of the reform will have to be part of the larger package of stimulus programs,” he said.

Salceda, one of Asia’s highest paid economists in the 1990s, said he will be unveiling “innovative” proposals for economic recovery in the coming days.

“The world is worse off than it was in 2008, but the Philippines is better positioned because of durable fundamentals. We can come out of this much stronger than we were before this crisis, if we can get the policies right,” said Salceda.