NEWS | Duterte signs Bayanihan 2 law amidst backlash

Photo courtesy of Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go

President Rodrigo Duterte signed Bayanihan to Recover as One Bill (Bayanihan 2) to become a law last September 11. The law extends the emergency powers of President Duterte granted by the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Bayanihan Act), which lapsed last June 5. The said law received criticisms pointing out the low funding proposed in addressing COVID-19.

Budget Allocations

Bayanihan 2 encompasses the government’s COVID-19 recovery plan with a ₱165.5 billion fund allotted to help the economy cope with the impacts of the pandemic. Three main areas were the focus of the proposed budget — support for production and enterprise, health-related response, and cash subsidies. Support for production and enterprise received the highest allocation, which includes capital infusion to government banks amounting to ₱39.47 billion.

Similarly, several government agencies secured additional funding to finance their own initiatives. The agricultural, tourism, and transportation sectors will receive ₱24 billion, ₱14.1 billion, and ₱9.5 billion respectively.

Amidst the worsening plight of medical frontliners, the health sector was granted at least ₱30 billion funding. Nearly half of this amount, ₱13.5 billion, will be allotted for the continued hiring of emergency Human Resource for Health (HRH). Additional ₱5 billion will be given to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to intensify contact tracing in the country.

Under the same area, ₱9 billion is allocated to finance the construction of medical isolation facilities and ₱3 billion to procure personal protective equipment (PPE).

Cash subsidies and other support amounted to ₱23.5 billion funding, wherein ₱13 billion will be used to implement the government’s cash-for-work programs for displaced workers. The Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of Foreign Affairs will be given ₱6 billion and ₱820 million each to aid Filipinos, including those abroad. Local government units will also receive ₱3.5 billion assistance, while national athletes and coaches will receive ₱180 million allowance.

Finally, the remaining ₱25.5 billion standby fund will be allocated for COVID-19 testing, procurement of medication and vaccine, and additional capital infusion to government banks.

Education sector’s budget

Bayanihan 2 seeks to give out ₱7 billion funding to support the digital learning efforts of the Department of Education (DepEd) and the development of smart campuses by different state universities and colleges. Subsidies and allowances will also be covered — ₱600 million for students and ₱300 million for teaching and non-teaching personnel, including part-time faculty.

To cap it off, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority will also receive ₱1 billion for scholarships.

Subsequently, DepEd expressed their hope that the law will help teachers who were displaced during the pandemic. Reports show that 440 private schools were forced to shut down due to lack of enrollees and high cost of operations.

Insufficient Funding

Vice President Leni Robrendo said in a statement that the budget allotted for Bayanihan 2 is not enough to address the problems brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. She emphasized the need for a proper health response in order to jumpstart the economy.

“Government must spend more, spend efficiently, and spend quickly, with the utmost sense of urgency, as if our economic survival depends on it — because it does,” Robredo said. “Idinidiin ko: Hindi magkatunggali ang mga suliranin ng kalusugan at ekonomiya. Address the pandemic and we set in motion the gears of the economy.”

Similarly, IBON Foundation Executive Director Sonny Africa insisted that the law is small to hasten real recovery and only a slight economic rebound can be expected from it.

“That’s it? The Bayanihan 2 law is so small that it makes health and recovery years away and farther than ever. But it’s all the people are getting because it’s all the Duterte administration wants to give,” Africa remarked.

Previously, critics have pointed out how Bayanihan Act’s ₱275 billion funding failed to meet its relief targets. Alongside these, corruption claims against the Department of Health (DOH) were intensified due to reports of fund misuse and procured overpriced PPE & testing kits.

Bayanihan 2 will be in effect until December 19 this year.

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