THE House of Representatives’ Defeat COVID-19 Committee on Tuesday approved a P1.3-trillion economic stimulus package that aims to help industries affected by the coronavirus crisis.

Aside from the Philippine Economic Stimulus Act (PESA), the House panel also approved the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer (FIST) Act and a bill seeking to prohibit discrimination against health workers and COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) patients.

The three measures were s taken up at the House plenary on Tuesday.

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez called for the immediate passage of the economic stimulus measure, saying there is a need to sustain worker income and help businesses that have been affected by the pandemic.

“By providing working capital assistance, technical and entrepreneurial education and financial management, among others, we will be able to protect Filipinos by ensuring businesses will continue operating post-lockdown and help turn the tide for businesses and workers affected by the health crisis,” he said.

Under the proposed stimulus package, P650 billion will go to the government’s flagship infrastructure projects under the “Build, Build, Build” program for three years starting 2021. The projects will involve building new facilities for health, food security and education.

For this year, P568 billion will be allocated for mass testing (P10 billion); wage subsidies (P110 billion); cash-for-work program (P30 billion); assistance to students (P15 billion); loans for micro, small and medium enterprises or MSMEs through Small Business Corp.(P50 billion); loan guarantees (P40 billion); zero interest loans from Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines (P50 billion); and funding for the National Development Corp. (P25 billion).

This year’s allocation also includes assistance to various sectors such as MSMEs (P10 billion); tourism (P58 billion); industry and services (P44 billion); transportation (P70 billion); and agri-fishery (P56 billion).

For 2021, P80 billion will be allocated for loans for MSMEs through SB Corp.(P25 billion) and P25-billion funding for the National Development Corp.

Meanwhile, the House committee approved House Bill 6622, which aims to encourage banks to transfer their bad loans to asset management companies in expectation of a spike in bad loans in the wake of the health crisis.

Also approved was House Bill 6676 or the Anti-Discrimination Bill, which seeks to protect healthcare workers and persons who are declared confirmed, suspect, probable and recovered cases of COVID-19 against prejudice and discrimination.

Meanwhile, the Defeat COVID-19 Committee’s social amelioration cluster approved House Bill 6709 that sets a P1.5-trillion infrastructure spending program over three years to address slowing economic growth and create jobs.

Also known as the proposed COVID-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus Act of 2020, the measure targets increased spending on readily implementable health, education, agriculture, local roads and livelihood spending items.

The Health department on Tuesday reported 14,669 infections to date, with 886 deaths. It said 3,412 patients have recovered. — Genshen L. Espedido and Jenina P. Ibañez