Romualdez: house to ok Bangon fund Monday

Martin Romualdez
House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez

HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez on Sunday said the House of Representatives will ratify this Monday the Babangon Tayo Fund or the the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act with provisions that would allow the chamber to scrutinize the strict implementation of programs related to coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) response and emergency subsidy to cash-strapped individuals.

"We are set to ratify the Bayanihan 2 bill when when we resume session tomorrow. But this time, we made sure that certain provisions are set in place for a strict implementation of the law," said Romualdez, the chairman of the powerful House committee on rules.

"From Day One of the implementation of law, the House of Representatives will closely monitor how government agencies disburse the budget allocated to them. Delays in disbursing funds to the needy are no longer acceptable," Romualdez said.

The bill, once signed by President Duterte, provides an emergency subsidy of P5,000 to P8,000 to affected low income households in areas under granular lockdown and to households with recently returned Overseas Filipino Workers. The amount will be computed based on prevailing regional minimum wage rates.

This time, however, Congress 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.

"This will allow Congress to exercise its oversight function more efficiently in monitoring how these funds are disbursed to the beneficiaries. We do not want repeat of Bayanihan 1 where absence of database resulted to confusion in distribution of funds," the House leader explained.

The P5000 to P8,000 subsidy will also cover unemployment or involuntary separation assistance for displaced workers or employees due to COVID-19 including probationary, project, seasonal, contractual and casual employees. Other major items included in the P160 billion Bangon Fund of Bayanihan 2 include:

* P39.47 billion for capital infusion to government banks

* P24 billion to boost agriculture and provide assistance to farmers and fishermen

* P13.5 billion for benefits and hiring of more healthcare workers

* P13 billiion for cash for work program

* P9.5 billion for assistance to public utility drivers and other programs of DOTR.

* P6 billion for "individuals in crisis" and other programs of DSWD programs

* P5 billion for hiring of contract tracers

* P4.5 billion for construction of temporary medical isolation and quarantine facilities, and  for expansion of government hospital capacity

* P4.5 billion for isolation facilities, hotel accomodation, food and transportation of COVID19 patients

* P4 billion for tourism industry

* P4 billion for DepEd's implementation of digital learning

* P3 billion for procurement of personal protective equipment, face masks, face shields

* P3 billion for development of smart campuses

* P2 billion subsidy for LGUs paying interest on loans secured from government banks

* P1.5 billion assistance to local government units

* P1 billion for TESDA scholarships

* P820 million for assistance to Overseas Filipino Workers

* P600 million in subsidies, allowance for students severely affected by the pandemic

* P300 million in subsidies, allowance for teachers, part time faculty, other employees of state universities and colleges

* and P180 million in allowances for national athletes and coaches

"We have all learned our lessons in the implementation of Bayanihan Act. We now have to ensure that the money goes where they matter the most. No duplication of beneficiaries, but no one left behind," Romualdez pointed out.

BAYANIHAN TO AID TOURISM ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap, the chairman of the House committee on appropriations, said the Bayanihan 2 will direct the Department of Tourism (DoT) to assist critically-impacted businesses that are tourism enterprises.

“Sa pamamagitan ng Bayanihan 2, karampatang budget ang inilaan sa bawat ahensya para magtayo ng mga institusyonal na mekanismo para tulungan ang ating mga kababayan na higit na naapektuhan ng krisis na ito. Isa sa sektor na higit na tinamaan ay ang turismo. Bago pa ang COVID-19, malaking porsyento ng kita ng ating pamahalaan ang galing sa sektor na ito,” said Yap.

“May pondo na inilaan sa ilalim ng Bayanihan 2 na magagamit para muling buhayin ang turismo sa bansa. Naglaan tayo ng 1 bilyon para sa tourism infrastructure, 3 bilyon para sa tourism workers na nawalan ng trabaho, at 6 bilyon para alalayan ang MSMEs at iba pang bahagi ng tourism industry sa pamamagitan ng soft loans,” Yap said.

“Bilang chairperson ng appropriations committee, patuloy tayong magbabantay sa pondong ito para magamit ng tama kung para saan ito nakalaan. Magiging malaking tulong ang turismo sa ating muling pagbangon. Kailangan din natin tiyakin na handa tayo tanggapin muli ang mga turista sa ating bansa at magiging ligtas sila kasabay ng ating tourism workers,” Yap stated.

“We see this as a smart investment as it is a long-term asset that can be utilized by countless travelers. We want tourists to help us revive the economy but if we can’t even provide their basic needs like a decent restroom, how can we attract them and make them spend in tourist areas? Every little detail that will make tourist come should be attended to, kahit yung simpleng paglalagay ng malinis at maayos na palikuran, dapat pagtuunan ng pansin," Yap noted. “We are living under the New Normal. Kailangan natin mag-adust at kumilos. We cannot just stand by and watch our economy crumble and our people starve right before our eyes.”

But Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Eufemia Cullamat expressed grave concern over a Bayanihan 2 provision waiving documentary requirements, including consent for private projects of national significance, possibly until the end of President Duterte's term.

Under Section 4 of the said measure, permits, licenses, certificates, clearances, consents, authorization or resolutions by national agencies, except taxes, duties, border control and environmental laws and regulation, may be waived for private projects that are nationally significant or those with high economic returns or high employment potential valid during the state of national emergency or until the last day of June 2022, whichever is later. "Malaki ang implikasyon nito sa mga katutubo, lalo na ang pagtanggal ng pangangailangan ng consent. Maaaring mapadulas ng Bayanihan 2 ang pagpasok ng mga dambuhalang proyekto sa mga lupang ninuno na walang paalam mula sa mga apektadong katutubong komunidad" Cullamat said.

"Paano na ang consent mula sa mga katutubo? Bagama't sa karanasan ay nagagamit ang usapin ng consent o pahintulot para gawing lehitimo ang pag-agaw ng mga lupang ninuno, ngayon pati ang pagpapaalam na ito ay maaaring mabalewala. Nilalagay nito sa panganib ang karapatan ng mga katutubo sa lupang ninuno at sariling pagpapasya" the Lumad solon added.