Health sector gets biggest slice of recovery fund pie

SENATOR Sonny Angara yesterday said that support for the health sector, which continues to address the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, accounts for the biggest share of the pie in the soon to be enacted Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2.

Angara explained that Bayanihan 2 was crafted primarily to ensure continuity in the government’s response to the pandemic so it was only natural for the health sector to receive a significant amount of funding.

While the capital infusion for government financial institutions is a bigger amount at close to P55 billion, health gets the most funding for a single sector.

Angara, who led the Senate panel in the bicameral conference committee meetings for Bayanihan 2, noted that around P40.5 billion would go to health-related programs.

This includes P13.5 billion for the continuous employment and hiring of emergency human resource for health (HRH); augmentation for operations of DOH hospitals; special risk allowance for public and private health workers; free life insurance, accommodation, transportation and meals for health workers; and compensation for health workers who contract COVID-19 or die while fighting the pandemic.

COVID-19 response Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte on Sunday said the proposed Babangon Tayo Fund or the Bayanihan To Heal As One Act that the House of Representatives is set to ratify this Monday contains features that aim to strengthen the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) response capabilities of local government units (LGUs) and hasten the recovery of businesses hit hard by the coronavirus-induced global economic crisis.

The Senate already ratified last Thursday the final version of this measure, also known as the Bayanihan 2 bill.

The House ratification this week will clear the way to the enrolled bill's submission to Malacañang for President's Duterte's signature in time for its possible enactment into law by September, Villafuerte said.

Villafuerte said the Congress-approved Bayanihan 2 bill, which adopted most of the provisions of the House version, will also sustain the national government's Covid-19 response efforts, compensation arrangements for health workers and social mitigation programs for low-income families,  as well as introduce financial assistance packages for students, teachers and displaced workers.

Buy local

House Minority Leader and Manila Rep. Bienvenido "Benny" Abante Jr. on   Sunday urged the government to procure personal protective equipment (PPE), masks, and other paraphernalia that are locally manufactured, in line with provisions of the Bayanihan to Recover as Act or the Bayanihan 2.

Abante lamented reports that the government has been procuring cheap but substandard PPE from China despite the availability of locally-manufactured PPE that meet international testing and certification standards.

He pointed out that "as a general rule, our procurement laws require us to buy the cheapest available products so long as they hew to particular specifications."

"However, in this case, we have to consider two things: first, the safety of our healthcare workers (HCWs), and second, the need to prioritize and patronize locally manufactured products in order to spur economic activity," Abante said.

Help for MSMEs

Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas is hoping that more micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) will stay in business through the wide array of assistance provided to them under the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act.

Vargas said the provisions of the Bayanihan 2 for the grant of low-interest loans to MSMEs and 30-day grace period for commercial loans will go a long way in helping entrepreneurs continue their businesses.

“Trabaho ang isa sa mga pinaka-kailangan ng ating mga kababayan sa ngayon. Kung mas maraming MSMEs ang bukas, mas maraming Pilipino ang magkakaroon ng trabaho,” said Vargas. Marlon Purificacion,