Trade official tries to hold back tears while pleading for aid for distressed firms


Posted at Jul 15 2020 08:30 PM

San Juan City businesses remain closed during the Coronavirus Quarantine on April 29,2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - An official of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) became emotional as she pleaded for aid for distressed businesses during an online hearing of lawmakers on the economy on Wednesday.

Trade Undersecretary Rafaelita Aldaba said they have been trying to help many businesses struggling to survive the economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but there was only so much that they could do. 

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Aldaba told members of the House Committee on Economic Affairs that while the DTI has been planning for post-COVID economic recovery, a lot of businesses have been shutting down.

“In fact, yung reality talaga, ang daming nangangailangan [ng tulong]. Ang dami ngang nagte-text sa akin na magsasara na kami, ano kaya ang pwede nyong itulong?”

(In fact, the reality is many need help. Many are texting me that they are about to close, what can you possibly do to help?) 

She said that the DTI has almost run out of funds for soft loans to medium and micro enterprises, but they were still getting many requests for aid. 

“Halos yung P3 (Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso) ubos na, at ang dami pang nage-email.”

(The funds for P3 are almost used up, and there are still many who are sending us email.)

Aldaba said she hoped that one of Congress’ proposed stimulus programs called the ARISE bill, or Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy, would eventually be approved because this would allow the DTI to provide aid to struggling small businesses. 

The bill, which was passed by the lower House on third reading last June, would have provided at least P10 billion for small and medium enterprises, P58 billion for the tourism sector, and P15 billion for the Department of Agriculture.

The finance department, however, earlier said that the government did not have enough funds for the P1.3 trillion ARISE bill, and that all the government could afford was another P140 billion in stimulus spending. 

The Philippine economy shrank for the first time since 1998 in the first quarter as the government locked down the country's most economically productive regions to check the spread of COVID-19.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, meanwhile, has already cut interest rates to historic lows to prop up the economy.