House panel OKs P1.5-trillion infra spending bill to curb unemployment
MANILA, Philippines – The House Defeat COVID-19 committee passed a measure that would allot P1.5 trillion to fund infrastructure projects in rural areas to help combat unemployment caused by the pandemic.
The panel members unanimously approved House Bill (HB) No. 6709 or the COVID-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus (Cures) Act of 2020, on Thursday, May 28.
If passed into law, the Cures Act would authorize the government to tap into the P1.5-trillion Cures Fund, P500 billion of which would be disbursed annually in the next 3 years to finance construction projects in 5 sectors affected by the coronavirus crisis – health, education, agriculture, local roads, and livelihood.
Infrastructure projects would include barangay health centers, municipal and city hospitals, digital equipment for COVID-19 testing, telemedicine services to post-harvest facilities, trading centers, and farm-to-market roads.
The bill is designed to provide jobs to Filipinos affected by the lockdown imposed in parts of the country due to COVID-19, which has infected over 15,000 people in the country as of Wednesday, May 27.
The lockdown displaced thousands of workers, several of whom are struggling to find decent work in the middle of the pandemic. The Philippine government has also been repatriating overseas Filipino workers, who are now among the jobless in the country. (READ: 'Walang malapitan': Stranded 'probinsyanos' feel abandoned by Duterte gov't)
HB No. 6709 is designed to complement the Balik Probinsya, Balik Pag-asa program, which was launched to decongest Metro Manila as a long-term solution to the pandemic.
The proposed P1.5-trillion Cures Act is on top of another economic stimulus package worth P1.3 trillion that the House is expecting to pass before it adjourns session by June 5.
The proposed Philippine Economic Stimulus Act (PESA) is primarily focused on providing assistance to businesses and helping revive consumer confidence. The PESA would also allot P20 billion for the COVID-19 testing of millions of Filipino workers from 2020 to 2021.
HB No. 6709 is expected to be sponsored for its 2nd reading approval in the plenary on Thursday afternoon. It will have to go through a 3rd and final reading before it can hurdle the House.
Its passage in the House has been swift so far, having been authored by no less than Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and the following House leaders:
- Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr, Camarines Sur 2nd District
- Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte, Davao City 1st District
- Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda, Antique
- Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, Leyte 1st District
- House committee on appropriations chair Eric Yap, ACT-CIS
- House committee on public accounts chair Mike Defensor, Anakalusugan
- House committee on good government and public accountability chair Jose Sy-Alvarado, Bulacan 1st District
- Lani Cayetano, Taguig City-Pateros 2nd District