MANILA – Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday defended the passage of a bill granting special powers to President Rodrigo Duterte to combat the coronavirus pandemic, as it would allow the provision of emergency subsidies worth PHP5,000 to PHP8,000 to around 18 million low-income households.
The House of Representatives adopted Senate Bill 1418, declaring a national emergency and granting Duterte additional powers to address the outbreak. The move sets aside the need for a bicameral conference meeting, expediting the passage of the measure.
“So, we have to pass this law, so that we can deliver, at the very least, PHP5,000 to PHP8,000 to each and every family in the Philippines–the 18 million that need it most. Is this enough? It’s never enough. I mean, who can live on PHP5,000 or PHP8,000, but survival po ang pinag-uusapan natin dito (we’re talking about survival here),” Cayetano said.
“So, are we in a national emergency or not? We have to decide for ourselves. These are not normal times… We were shocked and we are still grieving for Yolanda. We were shocked by the disruption in Marawi and we’re still grieving, and we’re still finding ways how to build Marawi. But this is much more than that. 30 percent gets infected at a 2 percent mortality, 700,000 Filipinos will die,” he added.
Under the bill, the emergency subsidy shall be provided for two months and shall be computed based on the prevailing regional minimum wage rates.
The subsidy received from the current conditional cash transfer program and rice subsidy shall be taken into consideration in the computation of the emergency subsidy.
The bill also authorizes the President to provide a “Covid-19 special risk allowance” to ensure that all public health workers are protected.
The PhilHealth shall also be directed to shoulder all medical expenses of public and private health workers in case of exposure to Covid-19 or any work-related injury or disease during the duration of the emergency.
A compensation of PHP100,000 to public and private health workers who may contract severe Covid-19 infection while in the line of duty shall be provided, and PHP1 million shall be given to public and private health workers who may die fighting the pandemic.
“Simpleng-simple ang hiningi ng administrasyon (What the administration is asking for is simple): give us a bill that will help us find money off-budget sa GOCCs (government-owned or controlled corporation); give us a bill that will allow the President to divert or to revert or to realign money to programs that can go straight to the people like the Conditional Cash Transfer,” Cayetano said.
Realignment, reallocation of budgets
The proposed law shall allow the President to reprogram, reallocate, and realign any appropriation in the 2020 national budget to fund measures to address and respond to the COVID-19 emergency, including social amelioration for affected communities, as well as recovery and rehabilitation of affected areas.
Government programs, projects, and activities in the 2019 and 2020 budgets can be discontinued to generate savings and augment allocations for the Covid-19 response.
The following items in the budget shall be prioritized for augmentation: the operational budgets of government hospitals (primarily those identified for treatment of Covid-19, emergency preparedness and response, quick response fund under the Department of Health; the operational budget of the Philippine General Hospital under the University of the Philippines; the National Disaster Risk Reduction Fund or the Calamity Fund; and allocations to local government units.
Other priorities include programs of the Department of Labor and Employment such as the livelihood assistance for disadvantaged and displaced workers and Covid-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP); livelihood seeding program under the Department of Trade and Industry; the financial assistance program for rice farmers under the Department of Agriculture; and the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS), distribution of food and non-food items; and livelihood assistance grants under the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
The Chief Executive can also allocate cash, funds, and investments held by any GOCC or any national government agency for whatever purpose deemed necessary and desirable to address the Covid-19 crisis. (ia/sovereignph.com/PNA)