Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte has appealed to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to speed up the release of the balance of the stimulus funds earmarked for state agencies and sectoral groups under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2), so the government could accelerate and broaden its efforts to defeat COVID-19 and set the stage for the quick and strong recovery of the domestic economy from the pandemic-induced global recession.
Villafuerte pointed out that “escalating the country’s programs to fight the contagion and revive the economy by way of funds earmarked under the Bayanihan 2 Law would build national resilience amid the pandemic—and further cement public appreciation of, and support for, the government’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response, as reflected in the remarkable 91% approval rating of President Duterte in the latest tracking poll of Pulse Asia.”
The Camarines Sur legislator said the jump in the President’s approval rating to 91% in Pulse Asia’s Sept. 14-20 public opinion survey—from the previous 87%—“indicates that an overwhelming majority of Filipinos recognize, appreciate and support the Duterte administration’s deft handling of the unprecedented global health and economic crises.”
Contrary to the bogus perception being foisted by the political opposition and government critics upon the public on the Administration’s supposed mishandling of the coronavirus crisis, Villafuerte said “Mr. Duterte’s excellent survey ratings illustrate that most Filipinos believe the President and his government have been doing a fine job of containing the further spread of the infectious virus and restarting the domestic economy.”
The jump in the President’s 91% approval rating in Pulse Asia’s Sept. 14-20 public opinion survey “indicates that an overwhelming majority of Filipinos recognize the Duterte administration’s deft handling of the unprecedented global health and economic crises.”
Villafuerte said the Filipino people are apparently aware of, and appreciate, the decisive actions taken by President Duterte to fight the pandemic, such as the strict lockdowns nationwide since March and his signing of Republic Act (RA) 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act and RA 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) to clothe him with special powers to better deal with the prolonged crisis and provide cash grants to poor households and small business workers.
Villafuerte, who was the lead author in the House of Representatives of both RA 11469 and RA 11494, thus welcomed the DBM’s release of an initial P3.55 billion for the implementation of Bayanihan 2, even as he appealed to Budget Secretary Wendell Avisado to fast-track the release of the balance of the stimulus funds under this sequel to Bayanihan 1.
Bayanihan 2 provides for P140 billion in regular funds for COVID-19 response plus a P25.5-billion standby fund, bringing the total allocation of this follow-up law to P165.5 billion.
According to the President’s 21-page report to the Congress, the DBM started releasing P3,545,776,436 last week, the bulk of which, P2.52 billion, was for the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)’s hiring of more contact tracers and P994.75 million to replenish the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) ’s “quick response fund.”
“I appeal to Secretary Avisado to make good on his earlier commitment to release funds under the Bayanihan 2 stimulus package as soon as President Duterte signed this measure into law,” Villafuerte said.
Villafuerte, who is deputy speaker for finance and a former House appropriations committee vice chairman, said the immediate release by the DBM of all Bayanihan 2 funds is crucial to the early and strong recovery of the economy from the pandemic because it would allow state agencies to scale up their Covid-19 response while “extending immediate financial aid to distressed companies—especially micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs)—that could hopefully stanch the alarming trend of increasing business shutdowns and mass layoff of workers.”
Villafuerte noted that Bayanihan 2 has clothed President Duterte anew with special powers to realign state resources and carry out urgent programs to accelerate COVID-19 active response at both the national and local government levels, while “providing immediate succor to businesses, most especially MSMEs that employ the majority of Filipino workers and were devastated by the economic crisis bedevilling the domestic and global economies.”
He said “the prompt release of Bayanihan 2 stimulus funds for the pandemic-hit businesses would help hasten economic recovery as the continued, calibrated easing of the mobility restrictions nationwide has started to boost business and consumer confidence in the domestic economy.”
Villafuerte said that of the P140-billion Bayanihan 2 outlay, the biggest share goes to capital infusion of roughly P40 billion into government financial institutions (GFIs)—the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank), Philippine Guarantee Corp. (PhilGuarantee) and Small Business Corp. (SBC)—for lending to Covid-hit businesses.
The total outlay for health response under Bayanihan 2 is P21 billion and for the agriculture sector, P24 billion.
“The Filipino people are apparently aware of, and appreciate, the decisive actions taken by President Duterte to fight the pandemic, such as the strict lockdowns nationwide since March and his signing of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act and the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act.
In welcoming earlier the President’s enactment of Bayanihan 2, Villafuerte hoped that the Bayanihan 2 funds “would just make up an initial stimulus package, considering the immense resources required to spell a strong and early recovery for the sectors hardest hit by the global economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.”
“We hope that our economic managers would be able to raise more resources in the months ahead to bankroll further stimulus packages needed for a strong economic rebound,” he said in pointing to the House-approved proposals on the P1.5-trillion COVID-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus Act (CURES) and P1.3-trillion Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy Act (ARISE), which both call for aggressive spending to rev up the economy and provide instant relief to pandemic-hit businesses and other sectors.
Villafuerte said the Congress-approved Bayanihan 2 bill, which contained most of the provisions of the House version, set aside the biggest slice of the stimulus fund for GFI soft loans to badly-hit sectors such as the MSME, transport, tourism and agriculture groups “to help them get back on their feet at the soonest in the face of the global economic downturn.”
Alongside provisions to beef up the country’s healthcare capacity and provide financial aid to distressed businesses, Villafuerte said Bayanihan 2 also contains compensation arrangements for medical front-liners; social mitigation programs for low-income families; and assistance packages for students, teachers and displaced workers.
Villafuerte said among some 40 major provisions of the House version included in Bayanihan 2 are measures to strengthen the country’s COVID-19 contact-tracing capacity and upgrade the capability of local government units (LGUs) to realign funds for their respective coronavirus response efforts.