Senate Approves Pandemic Recovery Bill
Senate has passed the “Bayanihan II” on its third and final reading on Tuesday. President Rodrigo Duterte sought its speedy passage prior to his State of the Nation Address (SONA). During his SONA on Monday, he appealed to lawmakers to give Bayanihan II the same treatment and priority.
In his SONA, the President said:
“This health emergency stretched the government’s resources to its limits. I hope they can [give] the same treatment of clarity, purpose, and fastness to support the passage of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act.”
The second version of the Bayanihan Act dubbed as the “Bayanihan to Recover as One Act” or the Senate Bill 1564 garnered 22 affirmative votes and only 1 disapproved. This new law will aid the government in addressing the coronavirus pandemic.
The focus of the Bayanihan II is on COVID-19 recovery interventions and response to the health crisis. It establishes a ₱140-billion standby fund for socioeconomic and health programs. The measure also provides an emergency subsidy for low-income households, assistance to affected teachers and students, among others.
This law will also remove the provision from the first Bayanihan Law allowing the President to take over hospitals and private facilities during the crisis.
Meanwhile, Senator Richard Gordon emphasized that the priorities must be clear in the implementation of the measure once enacted into law. He stressed that the next step now is to make sure their oversight covers the efficiency, the economies of making sure that they are able to do this right.
According to Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, the Senate is keen on passing the second Bayanihan Law even without certification from Malacañang since the bill was already passed on second reading before Congress adjourned sine die last month. Malacañang had earlier refused to certify the measure as urgent due to financial issues.
A session to harmonize the conflicting provisions in the bill will be discussed in a bicameral conference meeting once both chambers of Congress pass the Bayanihan II. The designated members of the bicameral conference committee for the Senate Bill 1564 or Bayanihan II are Senators Sonny Angara, Migz Zubiri, Pia Cayetano, Ralph Recto, Imee Marcos, Grace Poe, and Franklin Drilon.