House seeks more time deliberating proposed COVID-19 response bill

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 21) - House of Representatives Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said that more time would be needed to deliberate on the proposed stimulus package bill that would aid the government in responding to the pandemic crisis.

“Of course, more time is better....It depends on the situation, the less urgent it is or less timebound it is, the better the quality is the bill,” said Cayetano during the virtual meeting of Defeat COVID-19 Committee Sub-committee on Economic Stimulus technical working group.

“What we are doing now, instead of waiting for an administration bill on the stimulus and inputs from the Central Bank, while waiting for that, we are already hearing through technical working group yung bills ni Cong. Joey [Salceda], [Sharon] Garin, and Stella [Quimbo] at iba pang miyembro (the bills of Cong. Joey, Garin, and Stella, and other members of the chamber),” he added.

House Ways and Means committee chair Rep. Joey Salceda proposed a new bill, in accordance to the P370-billion stimulus package bill proposed earlier by Rep. Stella Quimbo. Once passed into law, the consolidated bill would be called as Philippine Recovery Act.

Some of the provisions on the proposed law include:

. ₱110 billion for wage subsidies for critical businesses as well as workers.

. ₱500 million each for the Social Security System and the Government Service Insurance System to compensate the salaries of employees infected with COVID-19.

. ₱10 billion funding to assist micro, small, and medium enterprises in transiting to the new normal.

. ₱10 billion for loan programs for agriculture and fishing industry.

. ₱43 billion to assist tourism enterprises.

. Imposition of zero tariff on imported raw materials.

With the fate of the Luzon lockdown yet to be decided, Cayetano says that they will still resume the session on May 4 through online meetings with the legislation on COVID-19 at the top of the agenda.

“Definitely, magko-convene kami. Kung naka-enhanced community quarantine pa rin, maaring online pa rin yung session (Definitely, we will convene the session. If the enhanced community quarantine is still in effect, the session might still be conducted online). We are playing by the ear. We are waiting for the President's announcement on April 30,” he said.

However, Cayetano said that the chamber has to fast-track the approval of the COVID-19 response bill if it is certified urgent by Malacanang.

“We'll fast-track all of these, kung may certificate of urgency ang Malacañang, just like yung Bayanihan We Heal As One […] But if we are given only a certain amount of time, then it is correct lang to give the executive to give flexibility and work on it.”

The Department of Finance recently said the government is planning to spend up to ₱600 billion for the pandemic response, with more than half of it to be funded by loans.