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House appropriations panel to keep working on COVID-19 bills

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Congress plenary hall
BW FILE PHOTO

THE House committee on appropriations plans to hold hearings during the Congressional break to tackle appropriations bills and stimulus packages seeking to address the COVID-19 outbreak.

“That’s the plan. I actually instructed our staff to consolidate pending measures in the Committee as regards COVID-19 so we can plan our next steps. I also appeal to the members of the Committee to participate should there be a need for a Committee Meeting but we will be cautious as well,” the chairman of the House committee on appropriations, Representative Eric G. Yap, said in a Viber message Friday.

Mr. Yap, of ACT-CIS Partylist, said the committee will implement the appropriate “safety measures” to prevent possible disease transmission while conducting the hearings.

In his speech before the adjournment of the session on Wednesday, Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano authorized committees to conduct meetings “if deemed necessary.”

He also said that the House is open to conduct special sessions and change the legislative calendar, with the permission of the Senate, to discuss possible measures against COVID-19.

Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro filed on Thursday three separate measures proposing the appropriation of P23 billion for workers and businesses affected by the spread of COVID-19.

House Bill 6612 proposes the allocation of P10 billion to the Department of Tourism for tourist-oriented establishments suffering from reduced visitor traffic.

House Bill 6613 seeks P3 billion to help affected workers. The funds will be administered by the Department of Labor and Employment.

House Bill 6614 proposes the allocation of P10 billion to the Department of Trade and Industry for assistance to outbreak-affected businesses.

Mr. Rodriguez said in a statement Friday that additional funds for the three departments will be particularly helpful for workers and businesses covered by the Metro Manila lockdown and other measures ordered imposed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

He said thousands of workers rendered jobless by COVID-19 need help from the government and the private sector as well, including 300 employees of flag carrier Philippine Airlines who were let go.

“It is important that the government help distressed employees and businesses because Covid-19, aside from its health implications, affects jobs and businesses,” Mr. Rodriguez said.

He also pointed out that the allocation of assistance funds for affected workers and businesses is in line with the President’s recent declaration of a public health emergency.

Rep. Stella Luz A. Quimbo of Marikina also filed a bill Thursday seeking to set aside P108 billion for a stimulus package that will address the economic impact of the outbreak.

Under the bill, P43 billion will be allotted to assist the tourism sector, P15 billion for displaced workers “including but not limited to emergency employment assistance and transportation vouchers,” and P50 billion for assistance to businesses, including loan packages and subsidies.

Rep. Jose Maria Clemente S. Salceda of Albay said he will be filing a P190-billion stimulus package, which he said is “equivalent to one percent of gross domestic product (GDP).”

“I am filing a supplemental appropriations bill that will prioritize Filipino workers and families in responding to the economic impacts (of) COVID-19. Kasi temporary lang naman ang tama niyan sa ekonomiya, pero ang potential damage talaga, sa ordinaryong mamamayan (the hit to the economy will be temporary, but ordinary people will sustain the most damage),” he said in a statement Thursday.

On March 10, the House committee on appropriations passed P1.65 billion in supplemental funding to support the government’s response to COVID-19.

Congress will resume regular session on May 4. — Genshen L. Espedido





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