A lawmaker from Bicol appealed Friday to the Senate to help boost economic-stimulus spending by passing a House-approved measure anchored on much higher infrastructure investments to jumpstart the economic recovery and accelerate its bounce back from the coronavirus-driven global recession.
Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte made the call amid the increasing likelihood of a slow recovery for the Philippines.
He expressed the hope that senators would consider and pass its version of the COVID-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus (CURES) bill.
The House passed in June 2020 the CURES substitute measure—House Bill 6920—which proposes a three-year P1.5-trillion stimulus program, to ramp up state spending on health, education, agriculture, local roads, livelihood, information and communication technology and tourism infrastructure.
Villafuerte said: “In light of the somber forecasts by various international financial institutions that the Philippine economy is heading for a slow recovery, partly because of the government’s relatively smaller fiscal stimulus package, I am appealing to our senators to consider passing the House-approved CURES bill in order to reset the stalled economy back on its pre-COVID-19 high-growth path and serve as an initial booster as well for President Duterte’s new initiative—Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa (BP2) program—to decongest Metro Manila by creating a lot more infrastructure jobs in the countryside.”
Villafuerte also authored HB 6970, which aims to fast-track the implementation of Duterte’s BP2 program by establishing township revitalization programs to entice businesses to relocate to the countryside and thus encourage people to return to their home provinces and get jobs there.
He pointed out that the CURES stimulus package aimed to blunt the impact of what the International Monetary Fund last year described as the worst global recession since the Great Depression in the 1930s by resetting economic activity and creating so many jobs in the countryside.
“CURES will at the same time boost President Duterte’s BP2 program by encouraging city dwellers to return to their home provinces amid the prospects of more employment and livelihood opportunities in the regions outside the national capital,” he added.
“It is also meant to encourage people in the provinces to stay put and get newly available jobs there instead of relocating to Metro Manila in search of better livelihood opportunities.”
With infrastructure investments having the highest multiplier effect on the economy, Villafuerte said “the House passed the CURES bill in June 2020 to dramatically raise state spending on HEAL IT projects and thereby spur the domestic economy’s quick recovery from the coronavirus pandemic’s economic fallout.”
He explained that CURES sought to create, appropriate and automatically release a special outlay dubbed 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.
Villafuerte, the lead author in the House of last year’s Bayanihan 1 and Bayanihan 2 laws, earlier lauded Duterte for signing laws extending the validity of unspent funds under both the 2020 General Appropriations Act and Bayanihan 2, which, he said, would let the government further accelerate public spending and fast-track the recovery of the domestic economy from the pandemic-induced economic turmoil.