MANILA – The House of Representatives on Friday approved on third reading a measure proposing a PHP1.5-trillion plan to build infrastructure over the next three years to reduce the impact of an economic downturn and the possibility of unemployment amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) crisis.
With 210 affirmative votes, seven negative, and no abstention, the lower chamber passed on final reading House Bill 6920, or the proposed Covid-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus (CURES) Act.
The bill seeks to establish a special fund to finance infrastructure projects across these priority areas–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 to 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), Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, author of the bill, 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.
Among the proposed health-related projects include barangay health centers, municipal and city hospitals, testing centers, and isolation facilities, “telehealth’ services and e-prescriptions, and wastewater or sewage treatment plants.
Education-related projects shall prioritize the construction of washing areas, toilets, alternative learning centers, e-learning system classrooms, youth civic centers, gymnasium, technical-vocational learning centers, and other digital infrastructure.
For agriculture-related projects, the bill shall prioritize funding municipal fish ports, bagsakan centers, drainage and irrigation systems, and alternative livelihood facilities.
For local roads or infrastructure, the construction of farm-to-market roads, barangay roads affecting vulnerable communities, local roads connecting schools, walking or bicycle lanes, evacuation centers, and disaster emergency lanes shall be prioritized.
It also sees the implementation of the proposed Barangay Emergency Employment Program, access to credit and financing for small and medium enterprises, and research and development programs for product development and enterprise diversification for livelihood projects. (PNA)