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.
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.
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:
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.
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
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:
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.