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House okays P1.3-trillion stimulus

Voting 216-7, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading the proposed Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy of the Philippines or ARISE Philippines Act Thursday night. The measure is aimed at reviving the economy and mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the hardest hit businesses and sectors.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said through the bill, the government will respond to the needs of the workers in non-essential businesses, freelancers, repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and self-employed workers who may have been left out in the government’s social amelioration programs and Small Business Wage Subsidy Program.

AAMBIS-OWA Party list Rep. Sharon Garin, who is also the co-chair of subcommittee on economic response package cluster of the Defeat COVID-19 Committee, cited the urgency to help the people who have lost their jobs under the Enhanced Community Quarantine through the implementation of transitional interventions.

“Workers in non-essential businesses, the self-employed, the freelancers and OFWs will be given a maximum subsidy of P15,000 per month for two months,” Garin said in her sponsorship speech.

House ways and means committee chairman and Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, the principal author of the bill, said the package is expected “to protect and assist up to 15.7 million workers, create 3 million short-term jobs, and 1.5 million infrastructure jobs over three years, and help up to 5.57 million micro, small, and medium enterprises, both formal and non-formal.”

“It will cost about 3.6 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) or P688 billion in new spending on its first year,” Salceda said.

Through the wage subsidies program provided under the bill, the House can address the concerns of the workers in the country’s film and entertainment industry and live events community, mostly freelancers  and self-employed workers who were not able to work in the past two months, Cayetano said.

It has been reported that around 865,000 workers from the film and entertainment industry have been affected and the revenue loss to their sector is expected to reach P100 billion this year.

“We are fast-tracking the passage of this economic stimulus bill so we can immediately help our countrymen to recover from the financial and socio-economic impact of the pandemic,” Cayetano said.

The measure proposes to earmark P1. 3 trillion for the entire stimulus package, which includes the enhancement of the Build, Build, Build program that will improve health care, educational facilities, social housing projects, digital infrastructure, creative industries and climate-smart and resilient infrastructure and other related projects.

It also allocates P25 billion for the implementation of the Department of Labor’s TUPAD program to provide temporary employment to displaced workers.

Under House Bill 6815 also known as the ARISE bill, the freelancers, self -employed and repatriated OFWs can avail of wage subsidies amounting to at least 50 percent but not more than 75 percent of P15,000, which is the base amount of monthly salary prescribed in the bill. Each qualified rank and file employee can avail of a monthly wage subsidy between P7,500 and P11,250 for two months.

Cayetano said the bill also provides for unemployment benefits of up to P15,000 a month for two months to OFWs who were repatriated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The provision of wage subsidies is part of the transitional interventions proposed, under the ARISE bill, which will be implemented to mitigate the permanent damage by the COVID-19 crisis to the economy and maintain employment levels of the corresponding sector or industry. Transitional interventions will be immediate and limited to a specific period.

To fund the wage subsidies, the bill has allocated P110 billion. The bill excludes the senior and executive officers of business entities from availing of the wage subsidy program.

Topics: House of Representatives , ARISE Philippines Act , Alan Peter Cayetano , COVID-19 pandemic
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