SENATE President Vicente C. Sotto said the chamber’s stimulus bill is expected to require P548 billion in funding for the remainder of 2020 and a further P80 billion next year.

“For 2020, ang expected natin dito kakailanganin ng mga (we estimate a requirement of) P548 billion for the entire year,” Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said in a virtual briefing, Wednesday. “For 2021, the estimate is around P80 billion.”

Mr. Sotto made the remarks in support of Senate Bill No. 1542, which he said hopes to cover areas not addressed by the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, or Republic Act 11469, the government’s first major legislation in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Senate bill will “restore economic growth, maintain employment levels, and expand the productive capacity of the country,” Mr. Sotto said in a statement Wednesday.

The bill among others provides for mandatory mass testing, wage subsidies for non-essential businesses, freelancers, the self-employed and returning Overseas Filipino Workers.

It will also waive registration and related fees as well as grant special trading accommodations to micro, small, and medium enterprises.

A counterpart measure in the House, approved at committee level Tuesday, proposes funding of P1.3 trillion for the government’s flagship infrastructure projects, mass testing, and wage subsidies among other forms of assistance to those affected by the crisis.

Mr. Sotto said during the videoconference that he expects to fund the bill via loans, savings from previous budgets, and unused 2020 funds.

Lahat ng available funds na hindi nagamit nitong mga nakaraang taon at itong taon na ito kasama para ma-i-fund ang proposal (All available funds from last year and this year will fund this proposal),” he said.

Mr. Sotto said an extension of the Bayanihan Law’s effectivity will likely be passed by the Senate. “Walang kaduda-duda na ma-e-extend namin yan (Without a doubt we will extend it),” he said in the briefing.

Separately, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto asked the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) not to delay the second tranche of the social amelioration program (SAP) over local government failures to file the required paperwork.

“The DSWD says that a condition for the release of the second installment of SAP is the local government’s liquidation report on the first wave of the cash distribution,” he said in a statement.

“In ordinary times, this audit rule should be followed strictly. But in the midst of the pandemic, it should be relaxed, not waived, but only insofar as extending the deadline of submission, and not making it a requisite for the release of the next tranche.” — Charmaine A. Tadalan