Palace hopes to obligate unused Bayanihan 2 funds before June 30 expiry

Marje Pelayo   •   June 29, 2021   •   804

Manila, Philippines — The fate of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2 is coming down to the wire as Congress needs to immediately take action to amend the law before it ends on Wednesday (June 30).

But since Congress is not in session today, lawmakers might need a special session to extend the validity of the law.

According to House Majority Floor Leader Martin Romualdez, all they need is a go signal from Malacañang.

“Medyo gipit na tayo sa oras kaya parang lumalabo na ating paghohold ng special session,” he said.

When asked about the matter, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque himself admits being clueless about the decision regarding Bayanihan 2.

Nevertheless, Malacañang hopes that there is still a way to utilize the remaining funds from Bayanihan 2 despite the fact that it is expiring tomorrow.

“So let us not foreclose the idea po na in the next na isang araw ay pupwede pa rin pong ma-obligate yan. Otherwise hindi naman po mawawala yung pera pupunta lang po yan sa national treasury,” Roque noted.

Filipino Nurses United, meanwhile, still hopes that healthcare workers will be able to receive their Special Risk Allowances (SRA) even those who are not assigned in hospital wards intended for COVID-19 patients.

“Sana lahat ng health worker makatanggap ng Special Risk Allowance kasi ang COVID-19 ay airborne. Once na pumasok ka sa ospital or any healthcare facility at risk na yung buhay mo,” noted FNU’s Secretary-General Jocelyn Andamo.

Apart from SRA, healthcare workers are also demanding compensation for meal, transportation, and accommodation expenses as well as the active duty hazard pay.

For its part, the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed that it has already released the P9-B remaining fund for the healthcare workers’ SRA while looking for other sources to compensate for all other benefits due to healthcare workers.

“Tayo po ngayon ay nakikipag- usap sa [Department of Budget and Management] para po tayo makahanap pa ng pondo para maibigay ang monetization na accorded sa ating healthcare workers,” assured Health Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergerie.

The DOH added that another P3-B has been released for the recruitment of additional healthcare workers who have been deployed in areas with high risks of COVID-19 transmission. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

LTFRB defends slow pace of fund release for service contracting program

Maris Federez   •   August 13, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) chairman Atty. Martin Delgra defended the agency’s seemingly slow-paced implementation of the Service Contracting Program, which resulted in the delay of the release of benefits intended for public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers and operators.

“Alam din po natin na kahit na sinagad po natin ‘yung programa hanggang June 30, yung pagmomonitor, pagkokolekta ng mga date, pagpeprare ng mga payroll, at saka mga financial documents, hindi po natin maaabot doon sa last day,” Delgra said.

Based on the 2020 Annual Audit Report of the Commission on Audit (COA), the LTFRB has released only about P59.7 million or just one percent of the P5.5 billion budget for the said program.

Read: COA calls out LTFRB for using only 1% of P5.5-B budget for drivers’ assistance

The COA recommended to the LTFRB to review its guidelines and make the process simple for the fast distribution of funds.

The Service Contracting Program was launched under the Bayanihan to Recover as One or the Bayanihan 2 which aimed at providing additional income and incentives to drivers whose livelihood was affected by the pandemic.

The said program also launched the government’s Libreng Sakay which was suspended when the implementation of the Bayanihan 2 ended on June 20, 2021.

LTFRB Financial and Management Division, meanwhile, said that aside from the delayed launching of the program, the late downloading of the budget in November 2020 and the alleged incomplete requirement submitted by some drivers contributed to the slow processing of the release of the initial subsidy.

Delgra said around P1.25 billion or over 26 percent of the total funds was released by the agency upon the extension of the Bayanihan 2 until June 30.

The LTFRB chief also said that they have submitted their request to the Department of Budget and Management to release to them the amount of P3.4 billion to be distributed to the rest of the beneficiaries.

The LTFRB is also awaiting the P3 billion from the 2021 national budget for them to resume the service contracting program this year.

“Ayon na rin po sa guidance ng DBM, yung unspent amount po na as of June 30 on the service contracting program maibalik pero mayroon pong ibabalik ayon dun sa nirequest namin na amount na kailangan naming bayaran dun sa tinatawag nating pending payout po,” Delgra said. —/mbmf (from the report of UNTV Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Lawmaker wants DOH to explain non-payment of Bayanihan 2 benefits to healthcare workers

Maris Federez   •   August 13, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Deputy Minority Leader Stella Quimbo on Friday (August 13) filed House Resolution No. 2121 that calls for the Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability to conduct an inquiry on the alleged failure of the DOH to release the benefits and allowances due to frontline healthcare workers.

She said the government has appropriated P13.5 billion for these allowances and benefits under Bayanihan 2.

“Dapat siguraduhin natin na ang bawat piso na inilatag dito ay napunta sa kanila,” the health economist added.

The resolution also seeks to further direct the immediate payment of the benefits and allowances due to all eligible frontline healthcare workers.

In a statement, Quimbo cited the dialogue with private healthcare workers (HCW) held on Thursday, wherein concerned agencies reported not receiving the benefits that were promised under Bayanihan 2, in coming up with her decision to file resolution.

As one of the invited legislators in the dialogue, Quimbo said the matter “raises urgent concerns as to why the DOH was not able to effect these payments and grants of benefits, given that the Bayanihan 2 law was extended until 30 June 2021.”

“Sa araw-araw na hirap ng mga frontliners natin ng dahil sa COVID-19, ang dagdag na pasakit at peligrong kanilang patuloy na hinaharap ay dapat may tamang bayad at benepisyo” the Marikina solon said.

The lawmaker also reminded the health department that “frontliners are not only preserving lives and protecting the people from COVID, but also direct contributors to economic recovery through the sacrifices they make.”

“Mabigat na ang pasan nilang responsibilidad, yet we can’t provide the benefits that rightfully belong to them? Unacceptable.” she remarked.

The DOH, she said, must be held accountable for the said funds that should have been disbursed to the health workers.

“The DOH should determine the reasons for such failure and identify viable solutions to give healthcare workers the benefits due to them. Ito ay para masigurado na mabilis na makakarating sa ating frontliners ang pondong nakalaan para sa kanila,” she added.

Quimbo then urged their counterparts in the Senate to pass Bayanihan 3 immediately, stressing that the law will not only extend the benefits of the frontliners, but will also grant the President the emergency powers needed to ensure that these health workers are protected.

Rodriguez seeks special session to extend Bayanihan 2

Marje Pelayo   •   June 29, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — House Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro City Representative Rufus Rodriguez is calling for a special session in Congress to extend the Bayanihan 2 or We Recover as One Law.

“We have to extend the effectiveness of the law again so that the government can spend whatever remains of the millions of funds we have appropriated for pandemic response,” he said.

Rodriguez stressed that the funds will no longer be available after June 30 as provided by the first extension law, Republic Act No. 11519.

If the law’s validity is not extended, the unspent funds will no longer be available for where it should be utilized such as the country’s COVID-19 response and economic recovery.

According to Rodriguez, more than P18 billion of the P165 billion appropriated by Congress under Bayanihan 2 still had to be disbursed as of last week.

Rodriguez said a special session would also give Congress the opportunity to approve the proposed Bayanihan 3 round of financial assistance to the poor and other sectors suffering from the pandemic.

He said although the House of Representatives and the Senate are on their annual mandatory or sine die adjournment, the Constitution empowers the President to call the legislature to a special session at any time.

Bayanihan 3 proposed to allocate P401 billion in more financial aid.

The House has already approved the bill on third and final reading before the sine die adjournment.

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