THE House of Representatives is putting the finishing touches to the final version of one of the crucial measures for the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) roadmap for recovery, Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez said on Wednesday.
Romualdez, chairman of the powerful House committee on rules, expressed hope the Bayanihan To Heal as One Act 2, which is under a period of amendments will be approved on third and final reading next week to pump prime the economy and create jobs for displaced Filipinos.
“Despite the uncertain times brought by the global pandemic, we will ensure that this administration’s priority bill will be realized with efficiency for the welfare of the Filipino people,” assured Romualdez, co-chairperson of the House Defeat COVID-19 Ad Committee (DCC) with Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.
Romualdez said President Rodrigo Duterte has a threefold mission to protect the Filipino nation from hunger and poverty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, save precious human lives and minimize the number of population infected by the coronavirus and ramp up budgetary measures needed to fully implement a responsive and sustainable recovery plan.
“In short: Kabuhayan, Kaligtasan, and Kaunlaran. There is no doubt that the country is at war against COVID-19, an unseen enemy,” added Romualdez.
BAYANIHAN 2 TO PROVIDE AID
Echoing Romualdez’s position, ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap, the chairman of the House committee on appropriations, said Bayanihan 2 is aimed at providing aid and relief for the Filipino people.
“Binabalangkas na ang Bayanihan 2 na tutulong sa ating mga kababayan para maka-recover sa epekto ng pandemic at ituloy ang mga program sa naunang Bayanihan Law. Kasama rin dito ang dagdag na pondo para sa mas agresibong testing at contact tracing. Hindi man natin kayang pantayan ng anomang halaga ang sakripisyo ng mga medical frontliners, nakasalang na din ang mga panukala na pagbibigay sa kanila ng sapat na hazard pay at iba pang allowances,” said Yap.
“We are also about to start deliberations for the proposed 2021 national budget. Titiyakin natin na may sapat na pondo para tuluyang masugpo ang pandemic na ito. Dapat may pondo para sa mass testing, bakuna at sa pag-improve ng hospital facilities. Ganun din ang sapat na pondo para sa iba pang aspeto ng pamumuhay ng tao gaya ng education, livelihood, infrastructure at iba pa,” Yap added.
Yap also hit critics of the government who took advantage of the COVID-19 debacle to advance political interest.
”They should not be tolerated. COVID is the enemy, not the government,” said Yap.
“I strongly support the decision of the President to place the NCR, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal and Bulacan under MECQ (modified enhanced community quarantine) once again in response to the appeal of our medical frontliners. This magnifies the fact that our medical frontliners are valued highly and recognized for their heroic efforts during this time of pandemic. However, it is very unfortunate that some people are capitalizing on this issue to attack the government despite various measures in place not only in support of our frontliners but also to eradicate COVID in the country,” Yap stressed.
5 K ATM LIMIT WITHDRAWAL DURING MECQ QUESTIONED
Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas questioned the reported P5,000 limit per automated teller machine (ATM) withdrawal per day imposed by some banks on the first day of MECQ last Tuesday.
“A day before MECQ took effect Tuesday, I received reports that some banks in Metro Manila imposed a P5,000 cap on ATM withdrawals.
This caused great inconvenience to customers, who had to find other ATMs to withdraw money from. Several people also had to pay inter-bank charges for withdrawals from other banks’ ATMs,” said Vargas.
Vargas also stressed that “this limit by banks is not only inconsiderate, but immoral.”
“They should be working harder to make banking convenient for their customers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Hirap na ngang maka-biyahe ang mga tao dahil kaunti ang masasakyan, pahihirapan pa sila ng mga bangko dahil parang na-quarantine ang pera nila sa ATM,” Vargas pointed out.
“I call on banks to keep their ATM withdrawal limit to the maximum allowable amount. With the current suspension of public transportation, people need to have enough cash on hand to cover their expenses for the next two weeks. I also ask banks to waive interbank ATM transaction fees, which can be as high as P15. Every peso saved by customers from bank charges will go a long way in maximizing their budgets,” he added.
SOCIAL AMELIORATION PROGRAM (SAP) 3 NEEDED Regardless of the country’s fiscal position, Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, an economist and chairman of the House committee on ways and means, said social amelioration program (SAP) 3 is needed to help millions of Filipino families affected by COVID-19.
Salceda called on President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic managers to “give the green light” on a third tranche of the SAP, citing that “communities are on the brink of being completely pauperized.”
“If we have a good Bayanihan 2, there will still be at least 3.3 million households who will lose at least one household earner. If we have an inadequate one, it will be 4.2 million households,” said Salceda.
“As representatives of the people, we are duty-bound to address, or at the very least manifest, the needs of our constituents. As months of interrupted work, school, and business have passed, we members of Congress have heard plea after plea from our people seeking help on their most basic needs – from food for their families, to medicine for their elderly, and milk for their infants,” Salceda added.
“I have not seen this volume of requests ever in my five terms as a member of Congress and in my three terms as a Governor. Even people
whom I know to have been gainfully employed before the pandemic are now in very dire need,” Salceda stressed.