Cams Sur lawmaker urges Senate to ok House Stimulus Package to support economic recovery EO

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte has urged the Senate to hasten the passage of the House-approved P1.5-trillion stimulus package for higher infrastructure investments in line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s newly-adopted 10-point policy agenda to accelerate the country’s economic recovery from the two-year pandemic-driven global slump.

Villafuerte said the passage of the Covid-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus (CURES) will ramp up state spending on health, education, agriculture, local roads, livelihood, information and communication technology (ICT) and tourism (HEAL IT) infrastructure, and support Executive Order (EO) No. 166 on a 10-Point Agenda on Economic Recovery.

EO 166 aims to sustain current economic gains, minimize the Covid-19 pandemic’s long-term adverse effects, and restore the country’s development trajectory.

The EO mandates government offices to strengthen healthcare capacity; accelerate and expand the vaccination program; further reopen the economy and expand public transport capacity; resume face-to-face learning; reduce restrictions on domestic travel and standardize local government units’ requirements; and relax requirements for international travel.

It likewise orders the national government to accelerate digital transformation through legislative measures; provide for enhanced and flexible emergency measures through legislation; shift the focus of decision-making and government reporting to more useful and empowering metrics; and undertake medium-term preparation for pandemic resilience.

“Our senators could show their support for the speedy and robust recovery of our economy from the Covid-driven global health and economic crises by giving top priority to the passage of the Senate version of CURES,” Villafuerte said.

“The greater economic activity resulting from higher infrastructure spending would boost business and consumer confidence and generate a lot of jobs to offset those that were lost in the two-year economic standstill caused by the pandemic,” he added.

Villafuerte said CURES seeks to create, appropriate, and automatically release a special outlay dubbed as the CURES Fund, equivalent to P1.5 trillion over a three-year period to bankroll infrastructure projects in the HEAL IT priority areas, at P500 billion-worth of projects per year.

With the reopening of the economy through the placement of the National Capital Region (NCR) and almost 50 other areas under Alert Level 1, he said one priority under the proposed CURES to accelerate economic recovery is much higher spending on tourism infrastructure.

“Spending on infrastructure in tourism, one of the domestic sectors worst hit by the two-year Covid-19 crisis, would hopefully reverse the fiasco committed by our tourism officials in prioritizing state rehabilitation funds for soft loans to tourism-related establishments instead of for building infra for tourism services in preparation for the complete reopening of our tourist destinations for both domestic and foreign tourists,” Villafuerte pointed out.

He was referring to the Commission on Audit (COA) report dated March 2 stating that the Small Business Corp. (SBC), as of June 30, 2021, released just P4.09 billion of the P9.08 billion earmarked for the Department of Trade and Industry’s Covid-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) Program, for distribution as collateral-free, zero-interest loans to micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

President Duterte has signed Executive Order (EO) 166 directing all government departments and offices to adopt the 10-point policy agenda to help hasten the country’s economic recovery from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Under EO 166, all line departments, bureaus, agencies, and instrumentalities, including government-owned or -controlled corporations and state universities and colleges, are mandated to ensure that all related policies, measures, and programs are aligned with the adopted policy agenda.

Presidential Spokesperson and Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said the adoption of the 10-point policy agenda for the country’s economic recovery is not an “exit plan” solely from the coronavirus pandemic.

Andanar said the policy agenda is part of the preparations for the shift to the “new normal.”