Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon on Sunday stressed the need for larger recovery fund under the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) to expand the government’s social assistance package, including another round of social amelioration program (SAP), commonly referred to as “ayuda” to low-income families affected by the coronavirus 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
Drilon said he supports the P162 billion funding for Bayanihan 2 as proposed by the House of Representatives. The Senate version is only P140 billion. The bicameral conference committee that is tasked to reconcile the disagreeing provisions is set to meet again on Monday/August 17.
“Formaland informal sectors have both been adversely hit the pandemic. It is the responsibility of the government to help them particularly in these trying times. No sector should be left behind,” Drilon said.
Drilon said the Bayanihan 2 provides for “crucial safety nets” for all the sectors heavily hit by the pandemic, hence the need to increase the funding.
“We need to increase the scope of the various social and economic assistance programs laid out in the Bayanihan 2. Without these much-needed interventions, poverty and unemployment will continue to rise; business establishments will be forced to permanently shut down; and our economy will continue to contract,” Drilon said.
The Philippines logged the highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Southeast Asia. The country is now in recession and the unemployment rate is expected to hit a record 18.5 percent this year, he noted.
Drilon said the stimulus fund can still be increased to at least in the level being proposed by the House of Representatives. The Department of Finance had earlier said it could only provide up to P140 billion stimulus fund.
He cited some programs that Bayanihan 2 aimed to provide for the most vulnerable sectors. These include the propose P15,000 cash assistance for health care workers who would contract mild to moderate COVID-19, P100,000 to nurses and doctors (health care workers) who would contract a severe case of COVID-19, and P1 million to the families of healthcare workers who die of the disease; as well as P5,000 to P8,000 cash subsidy (SAP) to low-income earners; provision of cash assistance to teachers from private schools and tertiary education institutions and part-time faculty in state universities and colleges; and cash-for-work for displaced workers.
The Senate version provided standby funding of P10 billion for the procurement of PCR Testing and extraction kits, supplies, materials, and reagents; P15 billion for the implementation of cash-for-work program and the TUPAD; P17 billion for the unemployment or involuntary separation assistance for displaced workers or employees; P50 billion infusion of capital to government financial institutions including the P5 billion to Philippine Guarantee Corporation, P30 billion to Landbank, P15 billion to Development Bank of the Philippines; P17 billion assistance to the Agriculture sector; P10 billion assistance to Tourism sector; and P3 billion assistance to state universities and colleges.
The minority leader said the collectibles from Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) licensees and service providers can be used to bridge the funding gap.
During the hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Labor in February of this year, BIR Commissioner Sixto Dy said that POGO licensees and operators are currently not paying franchise taxes to the BIR. In total, the POGOs’ unpaid taxes would amount to around P50 Billion.
“We need to collect these huge amounts of money to finance these crucial programs. It can bridge the funding gap because we have no choice but increase the spending for Covid-19,” Drilon said.