Duterte signs Bayanihan 2 law that extends his special powers

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law a measure that extends special powers for handling the coronavirus pandemic and provides a P165.5-billion fund for addressing the health crisis.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea confirmed Duterte signed the law, called the Bayanihan to Recover as One or Bayanihan 2 law, on Friday, September 11.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Senator Bong Go were present when the Chief Executive signed the measure. Lorenzana heads the National Talk Force Against COVID-19.

Bayanihan 2 extends, until December 19, the special powers Congress previously granted to Duterte to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. The first law granting these powers expired on June 5. 

Of the P165.5-billion pandemic response fund, only P140 billion would be readily available, since the Duterte government has yet to identify revenue sources for the remaining P25.5 billion "standby fund."

Duterte would again be required to submit monthly reports to Congress on the executive branch's efforts to contain the virus' spread and use the funds.

Support for medical frontliners

Some P53 billion will be used to support healthcare workers, according to the Department of Health. Of this, P4.5 billion will be for field hospitals, the expansion of public hospital capacity, and to provide dormitories inside 12 coronavirus referral hospitals where frontliners can rest in between shifts.

Over P2 billion will go to shouldering healthcare workers' transportation, accommodations, and food.

In case a healthcare worker gets infected and falls ill due to COVID-19 while performing his or her assigned tasks, compensation will be provided. The P0.27-billion allocation will cover all healthcare workers who contracted COVID-19 from February 1 onwards.

Specifically, provisions for an infected healthcare worker will be P15,000 for mild or moderate cases, P100,000 for severe or critical illness, and P1 million in the event of death.

Saving a pandemic-hit economy

Bayanihan 2 also focuses on reviving the country's struggling economy, hard-hit by lay-offs, business closures, and fearful consumers.

The following are some provisions of Bayanihan 2 focused on the economy:

  • P13 billion for cash-for-work programs, and unemployment or involuntary separation assistance for displaced workers, freelancers, the self-employed, and overseas Filipino workers affected by the government's deployment ban
  • P39.5 billion for capital infusions to government financial institutions (GFIs), of which P5 billion is for the credit guarantee program; P18.4 billion for the Land Bank of the Philippines and P6 billion for the Development Bank of the Philippines as equity infusion for low-interest loans for workers and businesses affected by the pandemic; P10 billion for the COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises or CARES program of the trade department's Small Business Corporation, including P6 billion for tourism micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs)
  • P24 billion for direct cash or loan interest rate subsidies to farmers, fisherfolk, agri-fishery enterprises and cooperatives, to finance the Department of Agriculture's Plant, Plant, Plant program
  • P9.5 billion for the Department of Transportation, of which P2.6 billion is for critically affected transport businesses; P5.6 billion for temporary livelihood for displaced public utility vehicle drivers; P1.3 billion to set up sidewalks and bicycle lanes, and to procure bicycles and other equipment for sharing and lending programs
  • P6 billion for the food and livelihood assistance grants to households in areas on hard lockdown through the Department of Social Welfare and Development
  • P100 million for training and subsidies for tourist guides 
  • P4 billion for the tourism industry, of which P1 billion is for tourism infrastructure by the Department of Public Works and Highways, and P3 billion to assist displaced tourism sector workers through the Department of Labor and Employment. An additional P6 billion for tourism – soft loans for tourism MSMEs through the Small Business Corporation – is lumped into the P39.5 billion allotted for GFIs.
Education in the time of pandemic

The new law also provides support for students, teachers, and schools adjusting to the pandemic era where "blended" learning has become the safest option to continue with education.

  • P600 million for subsidies and allowances of qualified students of public and private schools in all levels, and part-time faculty of state universities and colleges
  • P300 million for subsidies and allowances of displaced teaching and non-teaching personnel, including part-time faculty, in all schools in all levels
  • P1 billion for the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority's programs for displaced workers
  • P4 billion to assist the Department of Education's digital and alternative learning modalities, including the printing and delivery of self-learning modules
  • P3 billion to assist state universities and colleges in developing smart campuses through investments in their ICT capabilities
Contact tracing, data

The law also sets aside funds for other important efforts to curb the pandemic. These include P5 billion for the Department of the Interior and Local Government to hire at least 50,000 contact tracers.

P10 million has been identified to ramp up COVID-19 research and internal capacity for evidence generation. P15 million will go to putting up a computational research laboratory in the University of the Philippines Diliman Institute of Mathematics. This will allow experts to perform big-data analysis for COVID-19 and other pandemic research

Use for P25.5-billion 'standby fund'

The P25.5-billion "standby fund" will be available "once additional funds are generated from savings and unused amounts."

It will be used for the following:

  • P10 billion for COVID-19 testing and procurement of COVID-19 medication and vaccine
  • P9 billion to support wholesale banking and equity infusion of the Land Bank of the Philippines for low-interest loans for workers and businesses affected by the pandemic
  • P6.5 billion to support wholesale banking and equity infusion of the Development Bank of the Philippines for low-interest loans for workers and businesses affected by the pandemic
  • All other programs and activities authorized by Bayanihan 2

Malacañang previously said the government wants to make two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine free of charge for the poorest 20 million Filipinos. – With reports from Mara Cepeda/Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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