3-year, P1.5-trillion stimulus program filed in House 

A GROUP of lawmakers has filed the proposed P1.5-trillion National Economic Stimulus and Recovery Act of 2022, a three-year economic stimulus program for the Marcos administration.

Bicolano legislators led by Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte said President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (PBBM) may implement this stimulus program in the first half of his term to create millions of sustainable jobs and accelerate the  Philippines’s recovery from the unparalleled global crisis spawned by the  lingering Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Villafuerte said he and three other legislators from CamSur have filed House Bill (HB) 271 or the National Economic Stimulus and Recovery Act of 2022, in support of Marcos’s “comprehensive all-inclusive plan for economic transformation”—as stated in his inaugural speech last June 30—and his commitment to continue the massive infrastructure program started by former President Duterte.

The bill’s authors said this economic stimulus plan is similar to pandemic recovery packages rolled out by other countries like the United States (US), member-states of the European Union (EU), South Korea and Thailand.

The other authors of HB 271 are CamSur Representatives Tsuyoshi Anthony Horibata and Miguel Luis Villafuerte, and Bicol Saro partylist Rep. Nicolas Enciso VIII.

Villafuerte said they have taken their cue from incoming Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, who said earlier the priority legislation of the 19th Congress will be a Bayan Bangon Muli (BBM) bill patterned after the Bayanihan to Heal as One (Bayanihan 1) and Bayanihan to Recover as One (Bayanihan 2) laws that were passed swiftly in 2020 in response to the pandemic.

With Romualdez as House majority leader in the past Congress, Villafuerte was principal author in the bigger chamber of the Bayanihan 1 and Bayanihan 2 laws in 2020 that enabled the then-Duterte administration to access and spend massive public funds on saving Filipinos from the deadly coronavirus and on providing cash aid and other financial assistance to low-income families, displaced workers, distressed entrepreneurs and other sectors severely hurt by the global economic standstill caused by Covid-19.

Villafuerte said this proposed P1.5-trillion stimulus package will let Marcos sustain the unmatched high spending on infrastructure development initiated by his predecessor, “but this time, such investments will be focused on building and improving facilities for HEAL IT, which stands for Health, Education, Agriculture, Livelihood, Information Technology [IT] and Tourism.”

Under HB 271, the government infrastructure spending shall be primarily geared towards maximizing the direct and indirect creation and sustaining of jobs, particularly in the  countryside.

HB 271 seeks the creation of a Special Fund—to be known as National Economic Stimulus and Recovery Fund (Recovery Fund)—that shall be disbursed primarily for the implementation of infrastructure projects across the six priority areas under HEAL IT.

This Recovery Fund’s budget for approved projects shall be automatically released to the implementing unit to facilitate the start-up and completion of projects and remove existing regulations and issuances that impede these.

Of the proposed P1.5-trillion appropriation for the three-year Recovery Fund, P500 billion shall be released on the first year of the measure’s approval, another P500 billion on the second year, and P500 billion more on the third and final year.

After three years, Congress shall enact new legislation extending or modifying the same or terminating the Fund. In the latter case, the unobligated balance shall be made available for the general budgetary requirements of the year succeeding its termination.

HB 271 proposes the establishment of an Executive Cluster Committee to formulate the guidelines in the Recovery Fund’s use, and that will have the Presidential Adviser for Flagship Programs as chairperson, the Secretaries of Public Works and of Finance as co-vice chairpersons, and the director-general of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) as secretariat head.

Image credits: Robinson Ninal Jr./Malacañang Presidential Photographers Division via AP

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