The P1.5-trillion countryside infrastructure spending bill was passed on Thursday at the committee level at the House of Representatives, along with other measures dealing with the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
The Defeat Covid-19 Committee (DCC) approved House Bill (HB) 6709, or the “Covid-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus Act of 2020,” which seeks to spur infrastructure building at the barangay level in the countryside to generate jobs.
The measure prioritizes the building or improvement of health centers; expansion of school buildings to decongest classrooms, technical vocational learning centers and establishment of digital education in the public educational system; repair or improvement of municipal provincial fish ports and trading centers; and local roads and livelihood projects such as farm-to-market roads.
Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte said the bill was geared to create thousands of jobs after at least 2.76 million workers became unemployed when 102,000 establishments were shuttered because of the nationwide lockdown.
The bill will complement the government’s “Balik Probinsya” program by opening more jobs in rural areas.
The committee also passed HB 6623, or the “Better Normal for the Workplace, Communities and Public Spaces Act of 2020,” setting protocols and standards to control Covid-19 transmission as economic and social activities resume; and HB 6707, seeking to Establish a baseline polymerase chain reaction testing protocol to make it available, accessible and affordable for vulnerable sectors.
Resolutions to fast track the second tranche of the social amelioration program and to enact the proposed P66-billion supplemental budget of the Department of Agriculture were also adopted.
DCC Co-Chairman and House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez said the measures would be immediately endorsed for plenary deliberation.
After the period of sponsorship and interpellation at the plenary level, the measures will be up for second and third reading before they can be transmitted to the Senate.
During the DCC hearing, Romualdez said the House is inclined to hold an extended session until Thursday next week to ensure the passage of Covid-19 measures before Congress adjourns sine die.