MANILA – Leaders of the House of Representatives are proposing a stimulus package worth PHP1.5 trillion to lessen the impact of an economic downturn and the possibility of massive unemployment due to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and other House leaders filed on Monday House Bill 6709, or the proposed Covid-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus (CURES) Act, which seeks to establish a special fund to finance infrastructure projects across the priority areas of Health, Education, Agriculture, and Local Roads/Infrastructure and Livelihood (HEAL).
The proposed PHP1.5-trillion CURES fund shall be made available for three fiscal years with PHP500 billion scheduled to be appropriated every year.
Under the bill, government infrastructure spending shall be primarily geared towards maximizing the direct and indirect creation and sustaining of jobs, particularly in the Philippine rural countryside.
Citing a study of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Cayetano noted that the construction phase of infrastructure projects like roads, watershed development, construction of irrigation dams, or powerhouse provides the poor employment and income-earning opportunities.
“The CURES Act of 2020 will prioritize funding of projects that target infrastructure building down the most basic unit of the political structure — the barangay level,” he said.
“These huge infrastructure projects shall be undertaken in conjunction with the ‘Balik Probinsya Program’ recommended by Senator Christopher Lawrence ‘Bong’ Go which was approved by President (Rodrigo) Duterte,” he added.
The proposals for funding the HEAL priority areas shall be evaluated against a criteria based on 1) actual need in the locality; 2) number of locally sourced new jobs to be created and/or sustained after the construction of the infrastructural output; and 3) potential for forward and backward linkages with local businesses, suppliers, traders and skilled and unskilled workforces.
“By refocusing government interventions towards these areas, the CURES Act of 2020 also aims to rectify inequities in critical infrastructure spending,” he said.
Among the proposed projects include barangay health centers, municipal and city hospitals, digital equipment for testing, “tele-health’ services and e-prescriptions, post-harvest facilities, bagsakan centers and food terminals.
Other infrastructure projects shall be funded like walking or bicycle lanes, bridges across creeks and irrigation canals, evacuation centers and disaster emergency facilities and roads going to tourist spots, beaches, mountain parks, new business districts or economic zones, and hubs for small and medium-sized enterprises.
Cayetano co-authored the bill with Majority Leader Martin Romualdez; Deputy Speakers Luis Raymund Villafuerte, Paolo Duterte and Loren Legarda; House committee on appropriations chair Eric Yap; House committee on public accounts chair Michael Defensor; House committee on good government and public accountability chair Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado; and Taguig City-Pateros Rep. Lani Cayetano. (IA/PNA)