House leaders push P1.5-trillion infra spending bill for post-pandemic PH

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and 8 other ranking legislators filed a bill proposing a P1.5-trillion stimulus program that would fund key infrastructure projects in rural areas for 3 years to help cushion the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The following House leaders authored on Monday, May 11, House Bill (HB) No. 6709 or the COVID-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus (CURES) Act of 2020, a copy of which was sent to reporters on Tuesday, May 12: 

  • Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Taguig City-Pateros 1st District
  • Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr, Camarines Sur 2nd District
  • Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte, Davao City 1st District
  • Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda, Antique
  • Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, Leyte 1st District
  • House committee on appropriations chair Eric Yap, ACT-CIS
  • House committee on public accounts chair Mike Defensor, Anakalusugan
  • House committee on good government and public accountability chair Jose Sy-Alvarado, Bulacan 1st District
  • Lani Cayetano, Taguig City-Pateros 2nd District

Under HB 6709, P500 billion from the proposed P1.5-trillion CURES Fund would be disbursed annually in the next 3 years to fund infrastructure projects in 5 areas affected by the COVID-19 crisis: health, education, agriculture, local roads, and livelihood. 

The projects the CURES Fund would finance range from barangay health centers, municipal and city hospitals, digital equipment for COVID-19 testing, telemedicine services to post-harvest facilities, trading centers, and farm-to-market roads. 

The projects would be chosen based on the following criteria: 

  • Actual need in the locality
  • Number of locally sourced new jobs to be created or sustained after construction
  • Potential for forward and backward linkages with local businesses, suppliers, traders, small and medium enterprises, and skilled and unskilled workforces

HB 6709 is designed to complement the “Balik Probinsya, Balik Pag-asa” program, Senator Bong Go’s pet project which he launched to decongest Metro Manila as a long-term solution to the pandemic. 

Three days before the House leaders filed HB 6709, President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic development cluster proposed before lawmakers a P711-billion fiscal stimulus package that would also heavily support Go’s Balik Probinsya program.

“In the face of a global recession and unemployment among the workforce, it is incumbent upon the government to establish both palliative and curative interventions that would simultaneously support the Filipino worker in the immediate term while laying out the foundations for a more resilient and sustainable future,” the House leaders said in their explanatory note for HB 6709.  

The proposed P1.5-trillion infrastructure budget is on top of the P485-billion stimulus package that the House is also pushing to counter the economic impact of COVID-19, which has so far infected 11,350 people in the country, as of May 12.

This proposed fiscal package is designed to protect Filipino workers post-lockdown by ensuring businesses will continue operating while also reviving consumer confidence. 

The Duterte administration is already tapping P275 billion – sourced from government agencies’ revenues from operations – for its COVID-19 response, including the emergency subsidy for 18 million poor households. 

The government has also started rolling out a P51-billion subsidy program for middle class workers. 

Duterte’s economic team has so far announced a P27.1-billion package to help frontliners fight the pandemic and provide economic relief to affected sectors. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.

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