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VILLAFUERTE: REBOOT AYUDA BILL AMID DELTA SURGE

Ahead of the distribution of P10.84 billion in cash subsidies to those hit the hardest by the two-week reimposition of Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila, Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte has proposed the reboot of the aid or ‘10K ayuda’ bill for the benefit of other families outside the national capital who are similarly reeling from the COVID-19 damage, more so now with the surge in infections apparently from the deadlier Delta variant. 

“Rather than push through with the P400-billion Bayanihan to Arise as One (Bayanihan 3) bill, which seemingly has slim, if not nil, Palace support, the House leadership should consider a separate ‘10K Ayuda’ bill to provide instant financial aid to the hardest-hit families across the country other than those living in Metro Manila who are due to receive another round of cash grants starting this week,” Villafuerte said. 

Malacañang, through the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), last week approved the release of P10.89  billion to grant a P1,000 cash subsidy to nearly 11  million qualified persons belonging to the poorest families affected by the Aug. 6-20 ECQ that the government imposed in the national capital region (NCR) to slow the spread of the more virulent COVID-19 Delta variant.

“It’s time to accord Bayanihan 3 the repose it deserves and give the ‘10K Ayuda’ bill a reboot to provide instant financial aid to pandemic-hit Filipinos and, in the process, spur an economic bounce back by boosting household consumption, which accounts for two-thirds of our economy.”

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) announced before the weekend that the P10.89 billion has already been downloaded to the NCR local government units (LGUs), and that the cash aid—equivalent to P1,000 per qualified individual but at a maximum of P4,000 per household—will be given to the intended beneficiaries beginning later this week.  

Following the opening of the third and final regular session of the 18th Congress, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and other House leaders called for the Senate approval of a counterpart to House Bill (HB) 9411 or the proposed P401-billion Bayanihan 3 bill, which the House passed in June just before the legislature’s sine die adjournment.

However, Villafuerte broached the revival of the “10K Ayuda” bill, even if it was already consolidated  and substituted with HB 9411, now that this P401-billion stimulus package could  end up gathering dust in the legislature after Malacañang expressed a lack of interest in supporting this half-baked House-approved measure.

“It’s time to accord Bayanihan 3 the repose it deserves and give the ‘10K Ayuda’ bill a reboot to provide instant financial aid to pandemic-hit Filipinos and, in the process, spur an economic bounce back by boosting household consumption, which accounts for two-thirds of our economy,” Villafuerte said of this measure that proposes a P10,000 grant to every Filipino family or P1,500 per beneficiary, whichever is higher.

Villafuerte said that discussions on the  ‘10K Ayuda’ bill,  which was authored by former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Villafuerte and the other members of the independent majority bloc BTS sa Kongreso, could be reopened  at the committee level in the House of Representatives.

He at the same time proposed that the House leadership, rather than put off all of the chamber’s activities during the ECQ period, should initiate informal meetings among House members via Zoom so legislators could take up priority concerns such as the proposed 2022 budget, the ‘10K Ayuda’ bill and other Covid response measures that the Congress might need to consider when committee and plenary sessions resume after the ECQ period.

“This way, we could make better use of our (legislators) time holding informal meetings on exigent concerns via Zoom during this two-week lull in the Congress,” he said.

The ‘10K Ayuda’ measure, originally HB 8597, was consolidated and substituted with HB 9411 in the previous legislative session.

But with the House-backed version of Bayanihan 3 seemingly as “dead in the water” as Resolution of Both House (RBH) No. 2—or the economic Charter change or Cha-Cha initiative of Speaker Velasco—that was similarly passed by the House before the congressional adjournment, Villafuerte said “the fastest way for the Congress to provide immediate relief in the form of disposable income to pandemic-hit Filipino families is by passing the ‘10K Ayuda’ bill as a separate measure.”

Villafuerte said that discussions on the  ‘10K Ayuda’ bill,  which was authored by former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Villafuerte and the other members of the independent majority bloc BTS sa Kongreso, could be reopened  at the committee level in the House of Representatives.

Unlike the P401-billion stimulus package tucked in Bayanihan 3, Villafuerte is optimistic that the ayuda bill has a relatively better chance of winning Palace support as it proposes a smaller amount of P200 billion.

The former deputy speaker for finance said Malacañang and the DBM could bankroll the ‘10K Ayuda’ bill from, among others, savings from, and cost-cutting measures by, government agencies; portions from the balance of the 2020 national budget whose effectivity had been extended to December 2021; and bigger dividend remittances from government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs).

The lead author in the House of both the Bayanihan 1 and Bayanihan 2 laws, Villafuerte said the House needs to thoroughly discuss the ‘10K Ayuda’ bill with the President’s economic team to ensure adequate sources of funding for the measure, and also with supportive senators to work out a version that would eventually win Senate approval. 

Villafuerte said the House leadership should “avoid its past boo-boo” by making sure that the ‘10k Ayuda’ bill, if and when passed by the House,  will have the support of President Duterte’s economic team to ensure sufficient funding for the measure. 


“Now that ECQ is back in Metro Manila to stop a Delta variant-induced rise in COVID-19 infections,  we hope the House leadership will not botch its job this time around by considering the swift approval of a separate ’10K Ayuda’ bill and with full backing from Malacañang and the Senate,” Villafuerte said. 

Villafuerte said that with the Delta and possibly other variants spreading later not only here but across the globe as well, the government may need to impose similar ECQ-like restrictions in other parts of the country in the event of future infection surges.

“Lockdowns lead to loss of jobs and income. Congress must respond quickly,” he said in citing the latest estimates by Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua that the current ECQ in NCR and other places like Iloilo City will cost the economy P300  billion in output losses and make 600,000 Filipinos temporarily lose their jobs over the lockdown period. 

The Olympics host city Tokyo, as well as Thailand, Malaysia and the Australian city of Sydney  announced rising numbers  of COVID-19 infections last week, mostly driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant of the disease.

Earlier,  Villafuerte blamed  the apparently crappy working relationship between the  House of Representatives, on one end, and Malacañang and the Senate,  on the other, for  the “fiasco” of the proposed third Bayanihan law, which failed to gain the approval of the Senate in the previous regular session of the 18th Congress. 

Villafuerte said back then  that while he was listed as among Bayanihan 3’s  principal authors because the proposed Ayuda bill he has been pushing was incorporated in   the P401-billion stimulus measure, he was dismayed to learn later that the move was merely a ruse as the final version of the House-passed Bayanihan 3 bill actually excluded the key proposal to provide a one-time  P10,000  cash aid to poor families. 

Another proof that the House leadership had worked on a half-baked bill is that the Bayanihan 3 bill was passed on third and final reading even if it lacked the constitutional requirement of obtaining  a certificate of availability of funds from the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr), Villafuerte said.

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