Cayetano pushes Build Back Better program

Alan Peter Cayetano

SPEAKER Alan Peter Cayetano is proposing to the executive department to consider a Build Back Better program as another response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cayetano said due to the difficulties brought about by the health crisis, the Build, Build, Build program should be converted into a Build Back Better program, which will prioritize an infrastructure program responsive to the “new normal” requirements of the health, education, agriculture, local roads and livelihood, information technology and tourism sectors.  

Last month, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) released a report called “We Recover as One,” which outlined several policy and priority measures seeking to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and enable the economy to recover and transition to the new normal.

The report was prepared by the Inter-Agency Task Force-Technical Working Group (IATF-TWG) for Anticipatory and Forward Planning headed by the NEDA. 

Under the report, NEDA recommended that the national government agencies should realign expenditure priorities in 2020 and 2021 and revisit the list of Build, Build, Build projects to give priority to crucial and shovel-ready projects, provide more space for relevant health-related expenditures, and improve the country’s digital infrastructure.

The Speaker underscored the need to prioritize infrastructure projects that will create more job opportunities amid these challenging times and help the people adapt, innovate, and manage the new normal.

“It is not enough to say we will rebuild our lives, but we need to strive on how we can build back better,” he stressed.

The House leader cited the need to modernize DSWD food repacking centers to produce more relief goods at any given time.

With innovation and automation the government can be more responsive during disasters, he said.

He also wants to strengthen digital infrastructure to make internet connectivity more accessible and affordable to small entrepreneurs moving towards e-commerce and students engaged in online learning.

“Congress has always said that we want jobs, not dole outs. Dole outs have their purpose. During times like this, na hindi lahat pwede magtrabaho, ‘yung ayuda o ‘yung tulong, mayroon pong purpose ‘yan, but we prefer jobs,” he said.

The TWG report also cited the need to ensure funding for the construction and enhancement of road and transport projects under the Build, Build, Build program, wholesale food terminals and trading centers, warehouses, cold storage, mobile storage, and cold chain and refrigeration facilities.

Before the First Regular Session of the 18th Congress ended, House Bill No. 6920 or the proposed COVID-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus (CURES) Act of 2020 was passed on third reading in the House of Representatives and transmitted to the Senate.

The bill, primarily authored by Cayetano, provides for a P1.5-trillion fund to be divided across three years. The measure seeks to fund projects under the HEAL IT sector to be prioritized for funding which include: health, education, agriculture, local roads, infrastructure, livelihood, information and communication technology, and tourism.