House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano

MANILA – House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday vowed to pass a better and more responsive supplement measure to the Bayanihan to Heal as One law.

Cayetano said the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or the second installment of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, will institute mechanisms to improve the social amelioration program (SAP), particularly the distribution of assistance to millions of low-income households.

“We want also to ensure that SAP will be given to all Filipinos who need it most. We respect and acknowledge the tremendous work done by the departments involved, but our citizens cannot afford to wait that long. There must be a better way, and together we will find it,” he said.

He noted that the House of Representatives will exercise its oversight functions to ensure that “the mistakes of the past will not be repeated”, referring to the slow delivery of cash aid.

Last week, the House Committee of the Whole passed House Bill 6953, providing for Covid-19 response and recovery interventions, as well as mechanisms to accelerate the recovery and bolster the resiliency of the Philippine economy.

He said that while the government response to this unprecedented crisis has been “nothing short of extraordinary”, there is still room for improvement.

“Now we must take the hard lessons we have learned the past months and apply it in the testing, tracing, and treatment of patients in order to escape the threat of a more devastating second wave,” Cayetano said.

Under HB 6953, there will be a provision of emergency subsidy for all affected Filipinos due to the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine, such as low-income families, households with recently returned overseas Filipino workers (OFWs); no- work-no-pay individuals including freelancers and self-employed individuals.

The bill proposes mechanisms that will consolidate, update and validate existing records, through the Department of Social Welfare and Development in coordination with the Philippine Statistics Authority and local government units, to come up with a comprehensive and unified database to effectively implement the provision of socio-economic relief.

He also said that Congress is working to include provisions that will strengthen the support system that the government will provide to our essential workers or front-liners -- doctor, nurse, police, and service workers.

This includes better occupational safety conditions, employment benefits, and other measures commensurate to their contribution to the country.

House Bill 6953, which seeks to extend the effectivity of Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Law for another three months or up to Sept.30, 2020, is still up for consideration at the second reading stage.

The special powers granted to President Rodrigo Duterte to combat the Covid-19 health emergency is only valid for three months, unless extended by Congress. The law was signed on Mar. 24, 2020.

Another provision specified in the proposed measure is a PHP162-billion standby fund to support response measures to address the Covid-19 pandemic.

This standby fund includes PHP12 billion for the procurement of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing and extraction kits; PHP18 billion for the implementation of the cash-for-work program; PHP5 billion for the implementation of the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation Program; PHP21 billion for the unemployment or involuntary separation assistance for displaced workers; and PHP50 billion for the infusion of capital to government financial institutions.

Also included in the funding are various forms of financial assistance for affected sectors: PHP21 billion for the agricultural sector; PHP21 billion for the transportation industry; PHP10 billion for the tourism industry; and PHP4 billion for the education sector. (PNA)