Emergency subsidy for 18-M poor families amid COVID-19 quarantine

The main objective of Senate Bill No. 1418 is to provide immediate assistance to 18 million Filipinos who belong to the poor and informal sectors. They are also the most vulnerable in this time of crisis.

We need P200 billion to ensure that the most basic necessities are provided to them, including food, medicine, and other subsidies. When we look after them and care for their needs, these people would be encouraged to remain in their homes, not worry where to get their next meal, and be one with our government in fighting the COVID-19 virus.

The bill also provides emergency funding to allow the government to adopt and implement measures to suppress the spread of the virus. This will be done by expanding access to testing centers, providing adequate support, including PPEs for our health workers, strengthening support to medical facilities, and intensifying public education campaigns on prevention.

We have the funds. Our economic managers have assured us on this. Some P175 billion cash and its equivalent can be accessed from various GOCC accounts. We also have some P100 billion in various national government agencies’ accounts outside the Treasury Single Account.

This brings the total amount available – off-budget – at around P275 billion. This can be made available quickly to finance the Emergency Subsidy Program without affecting our national government’s fiscal position.

The 2020 spending program of P4.1 trillion will therefore remain intact, but we are ready to give the President the power, as needed, to repurpose funds within the General Appropriations Act from non-essential to essential items that are required for fighting COVID-19.

Other world leaders have already called for urgent emergency measures because this virus has been projected to infect anywhere between 40 percent and 70 percent of the world’s entire adult population. That’s at least three billion people, according to experts at Harvard University.

It is time to put our political affiliation aside and act together fast. Let us not sit idly and argue endlessly, lest we want COVID-19 overwhelm us. #

Passed! SB 1418 principal sponsor Senator Pia S. Cayetano with Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Acting Majority Leader Sherwin Gatchalian, and Senate secretariat officers and staff.

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