Duterte wants P200-B safety net for informal sector affected by Luzon lockdown

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 22 2020 02:00 PM

Duterte wants P200-B safety net for informal sector affected by Luzon lockdown 1
A health worker crosses the bridge on Ortigas Avenue going to Pasig City on March 17, 2020 after public transportation has been ordered not to operate by the government. President Duterte ordered the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila and the island of Luzon to halt the continuing spread of COVID-19. Fernando G. Sepe Jr. ABS-CBN News

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte is seeking an estimated P200-billion safety net to help households in the informal sector whose livelihood is affected by the month-long lockdown in the capital Manila and the rest of the main Luzon island due to the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), officials said Sunday.

“The proposal is a P200-billion package to help households in the informal sector, to be funded by off-budget sources,” Finance Assistatnt Secretary Tony Lambino told ABS-CBN News.

Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said the amount, which he calls Quick Financing "to fund and provide the basic needs of people who are in great need," could even be more.

Lawmakers are set to discuss on Monday Duterte’s request for emergency funds for the government's COVID-19 response.

Lambino and Avisado said the proposed package may be funded by off-budget sources, including available funds from government-owned or-controlled corporations.

The request comes after government rolled out a P27.1-billion stimulus package to cushion the impact of the economic slowdown due to the virus outbreak.

Lambino said there is a request for Congress to grant Duterte with authority to re-align items under the P4.1 trillion 2020 national budget “that will contribute to fighting COVID-19 and getting our economy back on track.”

Central Bank Governor Benjamin Diokno on Sunday said "a strong, massive fiscal stimulus is needed" to complement the measures taken by the bank.

“I think we have to address the fact that many people are not employed right now, or do not have sources of income because of the isolation. We need to address, we need to give them some cash grants for the next 2 to 3 months,” Diokno said.

He said P100 billion to 200 billion “will be enough to tide over, especially the Luzon population for the next 60 to 90 days.”

Luzon was placed under lockdown until April 12, which meant strict home confinement in all households, suspension of transportation lines, regulation of provision for food and essential health services, and heightened presence of uniformed personnel to enforce isolation procedures.

Duterte declared a state of public health emergency, and state of calamity in the country to allow government to tap into emergency funds to manage the pandemic.

The number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines has climbed to 380, as of Sunday with 25 deaths, and 15 recoveries according to the Department of Health.