IT IS kind of abstract, the line that connects a successful handling of the pandemic to saving the economy, but it is nevertheless real in simplistic terms. Didn’t we always say that “health is wealth” anyway? We need a healthy populace to man the machines, to keep the wheels of trade turning.
It must be in that vein that we welcome a second edition of the Bayanihan Law. Senate Bill 1564 breezed through on final reading with 22 affirmative votes just a day after President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address.
Bayanihan 2 will enable the release of P140 billion to boost our health care arsenal and the economy. Of that amount, P10 billion goes to procurement of test kits and equipment for the Department of Health, while P15 billion will be used for the cash-for-work program and Tupad (Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers) of the Department of Labor and Employment.
The pandemic displaced freelancers, self-employed individuals and overseas Filipino workers from their usual livelihood. Contract workers in private companies, in sectors like tourism, culture and arts, creative industries, construction, transportation are also severely affected. The Bayanihan 2 addresses this problem with financial help for these sectors with P17 billion.
Some P50 billion will also be allocated for government financial institutions, such as the Land Bank of the Philippines with P30 billion, Development Bank of the Philippines with P15 billion and the Philippine Guarantee Corp. with P5 billion. This is the stimulus allocation for the micro-businesses. Some P17 billion will also go to agriculture, under the “Plant, Plant, Plant” program, which provides subsidies and interest-free credit for the agriculture industry.
Another P17 billion goes to the transport sector, assisting drivers who are displaced by the health crisis, and P3 billion is allocated to assist the education sector in its multimodal learning programs.
The Bayanihan 2 also allocates funds for communities affected by granular lockdowns once the quarantines are lifted in erstwhile risk areas.
It appears there is enough money for the country to pull itself through this pandemic. The humongous infusion will certainly re-energize the country back on its feet into the new normal.
However, public vigilance must be as large as the figures that the Bayanihan 2 intends to churn out. Government must ensure full transparency in the spending of these funds, down to the last centavo. Otherwise, it may not be able to hold public trust, a thing that proves to be so fragile in the face of this health crisis.