Solons push for P420 billion in fresh COVID-19 stimulus

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 09 2021 01:07 PM | Updated as of Feb 09 2021 01:18 PM

The Makati skyline looms behind a slum area in Pasay City, Jan. 28, 2021. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - A P420-billion stimulus package dubbed as Bayanihan 3 has been proposed in the House of Representatives to help the Philippine economy deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Interviewed on ANC, Marikina City 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo said the aid package would shore up the economy after falling to its post-war recession in 2020.

"Given the recent estimate of the PSA (Philippine Statistics Authority) that our GDP (gross domestic product) contracted by 9.5 percent, which is the biggest contraction since World War 2, I think it's time for government to spend more and that's the reason why we filed this bill," she said.

Quimbo and House Speaker Lord Allan Jay Velasco filed last week House Bill 8628 or Bayanihan to Arise As One Act.

The proposed stimulus package includes P108 billion in direct relief to households; P100 billion for critically impacted businesses; P70 billion assistance to farmers, livestock producers and fisherfolk; and P25 billion for vaccine procurement.

Bayanihan 3 seeks to give at P1,000 for every Filipino, P1,000 for every student and teacher, and P8,000 for workers qualified for unemployment assistance.

"What we're thinking here under this Bayanihan 3, in addition to trying to drive up consumption spending, we also need to help businesses," Quimbo said.

In March, the government realigned some P275 billion from the 2020 budget in response to the COVID-19 pandemic for Bayanihan 1. For the government's second coronavirus pandemic relief measure, it allotted P165 billion for Bayanihan 2.

Quimbo hopes the bill will soon become law.

"Sooner is always better than later. Of course, there's a lot of convincing we need to do, particularly our economic managers who have repeatedly been saying that this is something not necessary. We hope they take a second look at this proposal," she said.

Philippine business leaders and economists have been calling on the government to ramp up stimulus spending as the country struggled with its worst economic contraction since World War 2. 

In November last year, the heads of some of the country's biggest conglomerates said reviving the economy required a "bazooka, not a pistol."

Economist Calixto Chikiamco bemoaned that the Philippine stimulus spending was the "stingiest" in the region.

An HSBC economist also said the country's recovery would be slower than its neighbors as the Philippines' fiscal stimulus packages, equal to 3 to 4 percent of the GDP, which is not at par with neighboring countries. 

Last year, Malaysia and Singapore announced stimulus spending equivalent to around 20 percent of their GDP. 

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez however has thumbed down proposals for “Bayanihan 3” stimulus package saying he was concerned over the budget deficit.

The Philippine government already amassed a total of USD13.34 billion or approximately P640.96 billion in loans for its COVID-19 response, DOF data as of Dec. 15, 2020 show.

The amount of loans nearly doubled since July 1, 2020, when total government loans for COVID-19 response stood at USD7.73 billion (approximately P371.67 billion).

On top of this, the government is also seeking to borrow P62.5 billion for vaccine procurement from multilateral financing institutions including the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and the World Bank.

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