CAMARINES Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte on Sunday backed a proposal in the Senate for a new fiscal package in 2021 on top of next year’s proposed General Appropriations Act (GAA), this time a “Bayanihan 3” plan for the large-scale rehabilitation of provinces and cities devastated by three strong typhoons—Quinta, Rolly and Ulysses—that battered Luzon in succession in November.
“I fully support a Senate proposal to legislate ‘Bayanihan 3’ for the sole purpose of funnelling substantial funds into the largescale rehabilitation of provinces and cities reeling from the disastrous impact of super typhoons Quinta, Rolly and Ulysses,” said Villafuerte, a former governor of Camarines Sur, which was one of the provinces hardest hit by all three tropical depressions.
Villafuerte said such special funds for “Bayanihan 3,” as proposed by senators for the typhoon-hit areas, should be spent on building new infrastructure or repairing damaged ones such as roads and bridges; offering livelihood opportunities, most especially to dislocated families and those still staying in evacuation centers; and providing shelter to those whose houses were destroyed completely or partially by the typhoons that came one after the other in barely two weeks’ time.
In one of the Senate’s plenary sessions on the proposed 2021 GAA, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto suggested that if the government could push the Bayanihan 1 and Bayanihan 2 laws as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it could draw up Bayanihan 3 in answer to the typhoons.
“The three cyclones had exacerbated the ruinous impact of COVID-19 on provinces such as CamSur, making it extremely difficult for these areas to recover quickly from the health and economic crises unleashed by the pandemic across the world,” said Villafuerte, who was the lead author in the House of both Republic Act (RA) 11469 or Bayanihan 1 and RA 11494 or Bayanihan 2.
Vilafuerte said Malacañang should consider Bayanihan 3, specifically for the rehabilitation of the typhoon-battered areas, as “the failure to help these places get back on their feet quickly enough would definitely be a drag on national government efforts to kick-start economic activity nationwide to pre-pandemic levels at the soonest possible time.”
“Financial institutions and experts project a slower-than-expected recovery for the Philippine economy because of what has been seen as insufficient fiscal stimulus response to the global economic slowdown,” he said. “Economic recovery would even be a far longer journey ahead for the Philippines if no adequate intervention measures are put in place to speed up the recuperation of cities and provinces like Camarines Sur that were hit the hardest by the three super typhoons.”
According to the latest National Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) reports, typhoon Quinta had damaged P1.56 billion-worth of infrastructure and inflicted P2.66 bilion-worth of damages to farms in the affected provinces; while typhoon Rolly had caused P12.86 billion-worth of damages to infrastructure and P5 billion-worth of damages to agriculture.
As for typhoon Ulysses, the latest NDRRMC reports placed infrastrucrure damages at P10.79 billion and agriculture damages at P4.72 billion.
In response to Sen. Recto’s proposal on Bayanihan 3, Senate finance committee chairman Juan Edgardo Angara said he was willing to discuss another stimulus package, and was quoted as saying: “If for instance, a special session is called if needed, then that would be a possibility.”
Asked by reporters to comment on Recto’s proposal, Budget Secretary Wendell Avisado reportedly said: “We are not averse to it.”
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, meanwhile, was quoted as saying: “We are in the process of evaluating the damage of the series of typhoons and the amounts required to address these and will determine whether or not the current budget will be sufficient.”