MANILA — Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Wednesday he filed a bill seeking to save the economy from "total collapse" as the Philippines started to ease a pandemic lockdown that caused GDP to shrink.
The Senate leader sought to "establish an economic stimulus strategy for the country’s growth and development" through mandatory mass testing and wage subsidies among others.
"Lawmakers need to work fast in giving back life to our economy... Measures to help revive businesses adversely affected by the COVID-19 crisis should be enacted with haste to prevent the economy from total collapse,” he said.
Metro Manila and surrounding urban centers are poised to shift to a general community quarantine or GCQ next week, after nearly 80 days on lockdown. The region is currently under a modified enhanced community quarantine.
The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which gave Duterte special powers to curb the coronavirus cases, "did not cover the economic effect of this pandemic", said Sotto.
Sotto's bill seeks the following:
- mandatory immediate mass testing for COVID-19;
- wage subsidies for non-essential businesses, freelancers, self-employed and repatriated overseas Filipino workers;
- expansion of the tertiary education subsidy to include students whose families are facing financial difficulties due to the quarantine measures; and
- waiving of registration and other related fees and the grant of special trading accommodations for a limited time to micro, small and medium enterprises plus start-ups (MSMEs+).
Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga filed a similar economic stimulus measure at the House of Representatives, said Sotto.
The economy shrank by 0.2 percent in the first quarter, the first contraction in 22 years. The government revised its growth forecast for 2020 to a contraction of 2 to 3.4 percent.
Some 1.5 million jobs were also lost permanently or temporarily because of the pandemic, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said on May 12, as he unveiled a 5-point plan to restart the economy.
President Rodrigo Duterte before the weekend will decide whether to place Metro Manila under general community quarantine that lets almost all industries to operate up to 75 percent. The region accounts for a third of the gross domestic product.