The Philippine Senate yesterday approved on second reading Senate Bill 1564 or the Bayanihan (“Camaraderie”) to Recover as One bill (AKA Bayanihan 2), which gives President Rodrigo Duterte the authority to realign the national budget so that it could be used for anti-COVID-19 projects.
Lawmakers said the bill, passed with no objections, is not an extension of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act of 2020 which was approved in March. This new proposed law will give PHP140 billion (US$2.8 billion) additional funding to projects that would aim to help the country respond more efficiently to the pandemic.
The fund would be used to purchase additional coronavirus test kits, provide scholarships at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, convert state universities and colleges into high-tech schools, and boost the country’s flagging tourism sector. The amount will also be used to subsidize workers, teachers, artists, farmers, and fisherfolk as well as infuse capital to government financial institutions, among others.
Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros said during the bill’s deliberations that it was not an emergency powers act, but would aim to bring the Philippines toward recovery. In fact, it removed the emergency powers given to Duterte in the first Bayanihan law.
Representative Rufus Rodriquez in the House of Representatives had already filed House Bill 6811, which seeks to extend the first Bayanihan law and give the president emergency powers for three more months, until Sept. 30. Both the House and the Senate have until tomorrow to pass that bill before they adjourn.
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