Senate eyes ratification of Bayanihan 2 on Thursday

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 19) - The Senate is set to ratify tomorrow the reconciled version of the proposed Bayanihan to Recover As One Act (or Bayanihan 2), which aims to stimulate the country’s economy amid the pandemic.

Sen. Sonny Angara, chairman of the Senate Committe on Finance and a member of the bicameral conference committee (bicam), said the panel is aiming to finish as soon as possible reconciling the disagreeing provisions of the Senate and House versions.

“We only have about 10 to 12 provisions left," Angara said. "There is a great possibility of finishing it tonight or tomorrow morning the latest.”

The Senate only holds sessions from Monday to Wednesday, but it will hold a special session on Thursday to ratify Bayanihan 2.

Among the provisions that were already adopted by the bicam in their previous meetings were the P15,000 hazard pay for COVID-infected health workers, cash-assistance to teaching and non-teaching personnel, a 60-day extension for loan payment, and easing the permit requirements for telecommunications companies in constructing new cellular sites.

Meanwhile, House Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte, also a member of the bicam panel, said the House might ratify the measure on Monday next week once the panel finished reconciling the two versions.

“We will hopefully finish and reconcile the House and Senate versions tomorrow with additional provisions and amendments coming from both houses,” said Villafuerte."Ratify possibly Monday."

During his fifth State of the Nation Address last month, President Rodrigo Duterte asked Congress to pass Bayanihan 2 to help speed up the country’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The bicameral panel has proposed a P166.5 billion standby fund to address the current health crisis. This is higher than the P162-billion budget in the House version and P140-billion of the Senate’s.

The first Bayanihan Act, or Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, gave Duterte the powers to realign the national budget in response to the pandemic.