Press Release
June 1, 2020



Mr. President, my esteemed colleagues, good afternoon.

It is my privilege to co-sponsor Senate Bill No. 1564, otherwise known as the "Bayanihan to Recover as One Act."

Last March, we pushed for the passage of Republic Act No. 11469, which this representation also sponsored. Our shared goal was simple: empower our government to act fast in providing Filipino families with subsidy for their daily needs to keep them home.

As already mentioned by the Chair of the Committee on Finance, Senator Sonny Angara, since the passage of the law, we have been in close coordination with our counterparts in the Executive Department in ensuring its proper implementation. Week after week, we received extensive reports from the Office of the President and every week, this representation would consolidate the comments and recommendations of the Senate, which we would then submit back to the President, in the hopes of strengthening these initiatives and addressing gaps.

Although we managed to act fast in responding to the threats of COVID-19 through the passage of the "Bayanihan Law," the lack of a national ID system has been pointed out to contribute to the delay in identifying beneficiaries. Thankfully, resolving this challenge is now a priority of NEDA under the leadership of Secretary Karl Chua.

Meanwhile, 78 days since the declaration of a nationwide quarantine, it appears that we have slowed down the spread of the virus although it is still out there. But staying at home has taken a toll on the livelihood of people and the economy. The interventions provided in the Bayanihan to Heal as One and the powers of the President therein, are set to expire this June 23, 2020. We need to move into the new phase in our battle vs. COVID-19. We now need to RECOVER AS ONE.

Senate Bill No. 1564 particularly seeks to extend the validity of RA No. 11469 up to September 30, 2020. This shall allow the government to more aggressively pursue its efforts to contain the transmission of the virus, and to provide specific support for various sectors as our economy starts to reopen.

For the health aspect, this bill proposes to enhance, through additional funding, the capacity of our public health care institutions. The COVID-19 crisis has forced us to finally recognize the gaps in our current healthcare system. There is no better moment to make reforms, to invest more in health services, and to build more adequate health facilities. Taking off from the current administration's infrastructure program, it is now time to "Build, Build, Build" for the Filipinos' health and wellbeing.

Another grave consequence of COVID-19 is the disruption to our education sector. Much support is needed, from assistance to parents with education-related bills to pay, teachers and school personnel now facing financial difficulties, private schools with bills to pay, and public institutions with threatened budget cuts.

As such, the bill shall extend education subsidies to qualified students in private institutions, both for the basic and tertiary education sectors. These subsidies shall be released directly to the schools for payment of tuition, which will also sustain them. Furthermore, the bill shall provide cash assistance to affected and displaced teaching and non-teaching personnel, including part-time faculty members, in private basic education schools and higher education institutions (HEIs), as well as part-time faculty members in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs). Government financial institutions are also directed to develop relevant loan programs.

In order to ensure food security and supply chain resilience, financial assistance shall also be provided to qualified agri-fishery enterprises and farmers and fisherfolk, which would enable them to continue their productivity and in turn, help feed their families and millions more.

Likewise, the needs of MSMEs and millions of their displaced workers, including probationary, seasonal, contractual, and casual employees, as well as freelancers of various industries, are also recognized in the bill.

This representation also introduced provisions to the bill, in relation to our long-time advocacy on sustainable transportation. Amidst the need to regulate the operation of all transport sectors in the country to help prevent the spread of the virus, people should be given access to safe and convenient alternatives. These provisions shall provide the necessary infrastructure and support for these alternative modes of transportation, including emergency pathways and pop-up bicycle lanes for pedestrians and cyclists. This will enable commuters, particularly our healthcare workers and other frontliners, to get to essential destinations like hospitals, banks, grocery stores, and the like.

Meanwhile, also through this bill, we will hasten the deployment of critical ICT infrastructure, and wireless technologies in the country, in order to address the need for digital connectivity, cybersecurity, e-government, online learning, and telecommuting during the pandemic.

These are just some of the highlights of our proposed bill, Mr. President. There are other important provisions. But I would also like to emphasize that in the effort to reach out to all sectors, we must recognize that our source of funding is not infinite, and the key is to provide assistance to as many as are in need, especially the most needy. There is no "one size fits all" approach to fighting a novel virus. Nations all over the world struggle to find the balance between protecting public health and safeguarding people's economic well-being in the time of crisis.

Our proposal seeks to strike this balance. It is a solution that is more tailor-fitted for Filipino families, and for the different sectors of our society. It seeks to save more lives, while also supporting our people, as we try to regain our economic footing.

Ultimately, our proposal is a call for sustainable recovery. The Filipinos are known all over the world for their resilience. COVID-19 may have shaken our societies to the core, but we will emerge stronger and more prepared.

Finally, I also take this opportunity to call on the Filipino people to be [proactive] in protecting themselves. Maging responsable sana ang bawat isa sa atin. Kung wala naman gagawin sa labas, manatili sa bahay. Every day that we stay home, we save lives. Let those who have to go out whether as frontliners or to earn a living, be safer because most of us stay home. And for those who need to go out, be responsible enough to note down all the places you go, because that small effort will go a long way in our contact tracing efforts.

Congratulations, and we are also here to support the efforts of our Chair, Senator Sonny Angara. Ituloy ang Bayanihan spirit. This is the only way we can foster sustainable recovery.

Salamat po!

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