MANILA, Philippines – As unemployment in the country reached a record high because of the coronavirus pandemic, the House of Representatives on Friday, June 5, approved a bill that seeks to allot P1.5 trillion to fund infrastructure projects in rural areas for the next 3 years.
Voting 210-7-0, the House approved on 3rd and final reading House Bill (HB) No. 6920 or the COVID-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus (Cures) Act of 2020.
The House gave its nod to the bill on the same day the Philippine Statistics Authority announced unemployment soared to 17.7% in April, equivalent to around 7.3 million jobless Filipinos.
But the bill is far from being a law. The Senate does not even have its own version of the measure yet.
The 18th Congress adjourned session sine die on Friday and will only reopen session on the same day President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his 5th State of the Nation Address in July.
If passed into law, the proposed Cures Act would authorize the government to tap into a P1.5-trillion fund for 3 fiscal years upon its enactment. That means if the bill is passed into law within 2020, then the funds will be valid until 2022, which is also the end of Duterte’s term.
The proposed fund would be disbursed in 3 tranches of P500 billion annually to finance construction projects in 5 sectors affected by the COVID-19 pandemic – health, education, agriculture, local roads, and livelihood.
Infrastructure projects to benefit from the fund include barangay health centers, municipal and city hospitals, digital equipment for COVID-19 testing, telemedicine services, post-harvest facilities, trading centers, and farm-to-market roads.
HB 6920 is designed to provide jobs to Filipinos left unemployed by the lockdowns imposed in parts of the country.
HB 6920 is on top of another economic stimulus package the House passed this week – the proposed P1.3-trillion Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy of the Philippines which focuses on extending various assistance to small businsses critically affected by the pandemic.
As of Thursday, June 4, COVID-19 has infected a total of 20,382 people, 984 cases of which were fatal. Still, 4,248 patients already recovered. – Rappler.com