CAMARINES Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte has urged the House leadership to spend the three-week session starting this Monday on assisting the national government in defeating coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and revitalizing the economy amid a global infection surge instead of pushing Charter change (Cha-cha).
Villafuerte said the House should work on, among others, making sure that Filipino families get P10,000 each in one installment under the proposed third Bayanihan law, to let vulnerable families cope with the economic shock of COVID-19 and, in turn, boost household spending nationwide.
“We should now start our stimulus program from the ground up. The Congress has already passed several stimulus measures through the Republic Act (RA) No. 11465 or Bayanihan 2 and other laws for both small and big businesses. We should pour financial resources this time with helping Filipino families rebuild their pandemic-hit lives instead of wasting our time with reviving this Cha-Cha exercise,” Villafuerte said.
Villafuerte, the lead author in the House of Bayanihan 2, was reacting to reports that the House is targeting to approve on third and final reading the Cha-Cha proposal to provide the Congress the flexibility to enact legislation that will appropriately respond to the needs of current economic and technological conditions before the sine die adjournment of the Congress in June.
On top of Bayanihan 2, Villafuerte said Congress has also passed the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act and the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer (FIST) law to provide stimulus measures to various sectors of the economy.
CREATE lowers the corporate income tax from 30 to 20 percent for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and to 25 percent for all other businesses, while FIST aims to help the banking system offload its bad loans to free its resources for more lending to pandemic-hit sectors.
Villafuerte is also appealing to President Duterte to certify as urgent the nearly year-old measure designed to boost investments, create jobs and drive strong growth outside the metropolis—to finally end the country’s traditional overreliance on Greater Manila as its main engine of economic growth and development.
The presidential endorsement of House Bill (HB) No. 6970, which sets up a national action plan (NAP) for President Duterte’s Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pagasa (BP2) program, will complement the recent presidential endorsement for urgent congressional approval of three pending bills geared to increase foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to the country, Villafuerte said.
These are the Public Service Act (PSA), Foreign Investments Act (FIA) and the Retail Trade Liberalization Act (RTLA).
“These bills will complement the enacted stimulus measures that will help reinvigorate the economy and return it to its pre-pandemic growth trajectory,” Villafuerte said. “They will liberalize the economy, attract more FDIs and create more jobs.”
Villafuerte noted that these three measures are immediately doable unlike Cha-Cha, which will require the tedious process of determining the method of how the proposed constitutional amendments should be introduced and discussed before presenting them for approval to the people through to a plebiscite.
Earlier, Villafuerte said that besides focusing on stimulus measures to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the national government should ramp up the country’s daily COVID-19 testing to 130,000 to 160,000 tests per day using a combination of the gold standard real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests and rapid antigen tests in high-risk areas such as the National Capital Region (NCR) and selected adjacent provinces in the “NCR Plus” bubble.
Villafuerte said the use of antigen should be expanded to cover the entire country to help keep infection surges in check.
He has also called on the Department of Health (DoH), the Interagency Task Force on the Management of Infectious Diseases (IATF) and the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 to account for the funds that were set aside last year by the Congress under Bayanihan 2 to beef up the country’s healthcare capacity.