Senate still studying need for Bayanihan III

The SENATE is still consulting government agencies and the private sector on the need for a third stimulus package for the coronavirus pandemic, which the House of Representatives is pushing aggressively for.

Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara said the Finance committee is closely monitoring developments of the proposed third stimulus law, known informally as Bayanihan III, as the legislation makes its way through the House of Representatives.

“The committee is currently soliciting comment and feedback from government agencies and from the private sector on the need for a possible Bayanihan III stimulus package,” he told BusinessWorld in a phone message.

Mr. Angara said the Senate may “have one (hearing) in the succeeding weeks.”

“We are looking at having one (hearing) after we have collected position papers and data that we have requested,” Mr. Angara, who chairs the committee, added.

The House of Representatives committees on economic affairs, social services, and ways and means, early this month approved the measure authorizing P405.6 billion for Bayanihan III. It still has yet to be approved by the committee on appropriations.

Senator Ralph G. Recto in December filed Senate Bill No. 1953 or the Bayanihan to Rebuild As One, the chamber’s version of Bayanihan III, calling for P485 billion to support the economic recovery following the pandemic and the late-2020 typhoons.

The bill is currently with the Senate committees on economic affairs and finance.

Mr. Recto said in a phone message: “We can have a hearing to find out formally what the executive’s position will be.”

Senator Maria Josefa Imelda R. Marcos, who chairs the Economic Affairs committee, cited unspent funds from the 2020 budget, Bayanihan II, and contingency and calamity funds in the 2021 budget.

“For tidy budgeting, perhaps it’s best we account for those amounts first, ideally disburse its larger portion, before launching into yet another appropriations measure,” she said in a phone message to BusinessWorld.

Ms. Marcos added that discussions on the general appropriations act for 2022 “may be the best opportunity, maybe even the quickest way, to input vaccine financing, comprehensive social protection, cash-for-work programs, wage subsidies, and (micro, medium, and small enterprises) assistance.”

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson on Friday said he and Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III met with the head of the vaccination effort, Carlito G. Galvez Jr., the point perron on testing Vivencio B. Dizon, and the lead official on contact tracing Benjamin B. Magalong on Thursday to discuss red tape issues and funding needs hindering the COVID-19 containment effort.

The government wants a P90-billion budget for vaccine procurement under the Health department next year.

It also wants P20 billion under Bayanihan III for vaccine purchases. Mr. Lacson has proposed sourcing these funds via the realignment of unused funds of various executive agencies and the existing stimulus package. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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