A LEGISLATOR who chairs the House committee dealing with economic stimulus said the chamber should consider a new measure that would extend the effectivity of the current stimulus law, known as Bayanihan II, because of the slowness of its implementation.

Marikina City Representative Stella Luz A. Quimbo, head of the Defeat COVID-19 ad hoc committee, said Monday that funding authorization for programs under the Bayanihan to Heal As One Law (Republic Act 11494) is due to expire on Dec. 19, but only P4.4 billion has been released by the Department of Budget and Management.

Bayanihan II, signed in early September, authorizes spending of P140 billion on economic recovery measures, plus P25 billion worth of items subject to funding availability. The P25 billion in standby measures has been earmarked for vaccines (P10 billion) and lending programs of the Land Bank of the Philippines.

“An amount of P4.4 billion has been disbursed, and some P24 billion are (still pending for approval). Still that’s way less than P165 billion. The idea is to spend as quickly as we can because that’s a stimulus program,” Ms. Quimbo, a former University of the Philippines economist, told BusinessWorld.  “We need a Bayanihan III, also, to identify new economic interventions. If there are still savings, the remainder should be allocated for additional economic stimulus interventions.

Ms. Quimbo said savings from this year’s budget should also be mobilized.

The government has released P4.071 trillion to line agencies as of the end of September, or 99% of the 2020 spending plan, according to the DBM, leaving P28.46 billion left for release.

“As of August, the net change in cash was P1.142 trillion, that including beginning balance as of the year is what is available as of end of August. Clearly, it’s way bigger than the P165 billion for Bayanihan II,” Ms. Quimbo said, while suggesting that the Philippines has ample resources for a prolonged pandemic.

The House of Representatives in June approved P1.3 trillion worth of pandemic-related measures, but economic managers indicated the government is only able to fund about P165 billion.

“To my mind the P165-billion Bayanihan II reflects (what they are willing to fund) rather than the resources available,” she said. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza