Communications Secretary Martin Andanar (File photo)

MANILA – The proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) would allow the government to step up its fight against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar said on Tuesday.

In a press statement, Andanar said the “needed and timely” Covid-19 response can be further realized, once the proposed Bayanihan 2 is passed into law.

Andanar‘s remarks came amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s anticipated signing of the proposed Bayanihan 2 following the ratification of the measure by both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

“Now needing only President Duterte’s signature to become a law, it will ensure that the needed and timely responses and actions undertaken by the government in our fight against Covid-19 will continue and will be further enhanced, through the needed response fund,” he said.

The Senate on August 20 ratified the reconciled Bayanihan 2 bill which authorizes Duterte to realign funds for the Covid-19 pandemic. Four days after, the House of Representatives approved a similar measure.

The proposed Bayanihan 2 provides for a stimulus plan worth PHP165.5 billion to help struggling sectors cope with the impacts of the Covid-19 crisis.

The measure earmarks PHP140 billion for the Covid-19 response with allotments for various government programs to help affected Filipinos and sectors, plus an additional PHP25.5-billion standby appropriations.

Andanar thanked the senators and congressmen for ratifying the proposed Bayanihan 2.

He said the country is now “truly on track to heal and recover as one nation.”

“The implementation of our stimulus packages and recovery plans for struggling sectors, especially our micro, small, and medium enterprises [or] MSMEs, tourism, transport, and agriculture sectors, to help our society cope with the impacts of Covid-19 will now be set in motion,” he said.

Call for opposition’s cooperation to fight Covid-19

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, in a separate statement, urged the opposition led by Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo to help the government in its battle against Covid-19 rather than criticize its way of handling the pandemic.

Panelo made the call a day after Robredo claimed that country appears to have “no leader” and the Filipinos seemed to have no choice but “fend for [themselves]” amid the health crisis.

In a public address delivered late Monday night but aired on state-run PTV-4 on Tuesday morning, Duterte told Robredo to avoid “adding fuel to the fire” as it would only put the country at a disadvantage.

Panelo backed Duterte, saying Robredo is either “completely ignorant or just partisan blind to the fact that her suggestions have long been undertaken and are continuously being done by the government.”

“Given that her suggestions have either already been done or are work in progress, it is crystal clear that VP Robredo is trying to undermine the efforts of the government in managing the crisis. She appears to have mastered the art of appearing politically relevant while exhibiting her pretended concern, and succeeding to mislead her supporters and the gullible,” he said.

Panelo also said the Duterte government is already monitoring the issues Robredo had raised.

“Where was VP Robredo when these developments were being reported? Doesn’t she read the newspapers?” he asked.

Panelo expressed dismay that Robredo and the rest of the opposition, as well as the “unthinking“ critics, have failed to make the “important” call and appeal to the people to heed the health and quarantine protocols to ensure the successful fight against Covid-19.

He said Robredo should instead enjoin the government’s critics to use their voice to help the country defeat the new coronavirus.

“VP Robredo, if she is so minded to help in these critical times, should lead the opposition as well as the critics and detractors, to appeal to the nation and to persuade the citizenry to consciously and conscientiously observe the minimum health requirements of wearing face masks, face shields, frequent washing of the hands with soap and maintaining the two-meter social distancing, that we may succeed to contain the spread of the coronavirus,” Panelo said. (PNA)