Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte has assured the Palace and the public that the House leadership under Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano will fully support the convening of a special session by Congress to pass the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, in order to continue the giving of special powers to President Rodrigo Duterte to deal with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“House leaders have engaged senators and Executive Department officials in continuous discussions on the proposed provisions of Bayanihan 2 that would let the President best deal with the deepening global health and economic crisis spawned by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Villafuerte, who is the lead author in the House of both the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Republic Act No. 11469) and the proposed Bayanihan 2 bill.

“We will be ready to hold a special session any day now to pass Bayanihan 2.”

“We need to give continued special powers to the President to beat the pandemic, which, according to the WHO (World Health Organization), has reached a ‘dangerous’ stage of accelerated spread as governments across the world start relaxing mobility restrictions and reopening their economies,” he said.

Although state economic managers have said that Malacañang could only afford a P140-billion stimulus package, Villafuerte expressed the hope that Palace officials would exert greater effort to raise more resources that would enable the Duterte administration to spend more on stimulating the economy after the four-month pause in economic activity as a result of the government-imposed stringent quarantine measures meant to stop the further spread of the highly contagious virus.

He hoped that Malacañang will increase funding for the proposed stimulus package to an initial P200 billion to clear the way to a strong and quick economic recovery.

Villafuerte and Cayetano are the lead authors of the House-approved House Bill (HB) No. 6709 on the proposed COVID-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus (CURES) Act setting aside P1.5 trillion over the next three years for accelerated infrastructure spending on the Health, Education, Agriculture, Information Technology and Tourism  (HEAL IT) sectors, particularly in the countryside. 

With revenue collections down in the year’s first five months as a result of the economic standstill, economic managers have said the government could only afford to set aside P140 billion for a new COVID-19 response and stimulus package.

But Villafuerte, who is deputy speaker for finance, is optimistic that the Executive Department is capable of raising more funds for the proposed Bayanihan 2, in light of Thursday’s report that revenue collections by the Bureaus of Internal Revenue (BIR) and of Customs (BOC) have started to pick up this June, with their combined take totaling P270.77 billion, which is P211.5 billion or 28 percent higher than what both agencies collected in the same month last year.

“We in the House will not shirk our responsibility to help our country and our people.”

Villafuerte issued this statement in response to the latest disclosure by Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. that the President will call for a special session to pass the proposed package for COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.  

“We will be ready to hold a special session any day now to pass Bayanihan 2, in support of President Duterte’s all-out efforts to beat the COVID-19 pandemic, provide relief to the poor and other sectors reeling from the crisis, and to steer the economy to a quick recovery,” Villafuerte said.  

“We in the House will not shirk our responsibility to help our country and our people weather this unprecedented global health emergency—in the same way that it took us only a day to pass the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act,” he added.

The House and the Senate adjourned sine die last month without passing a consolidated version of Bayanihan 2, hence the need for a special session to be able to approve an enrolled bill before the reopening of the Congress on July 27.  

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