MANILA - Mere months after President Rodrigo Duterte blasted the "5-6" lending scheme, several Indian nationals have stopped giving loans to Filipinos and are now looking for alternative businesses.
Indian businessman Rocky Singh said many money lenders like him have become afraid of being arrested arbitrarily following Duterte's pronouncement that exorbitant 5-6 interest rates are killing the Filipino entrepreneur’s spirit.
"Siyempre takot baka harassment kahit wala namang kasalanan, sabihin no warrant," Singh, who has lived in the Philippines for 37 years now, told radio DZMM.
(Of course we are afraid of harassment even though we've done nothing wrong, of being arrested without a warrant.)
Singh said he hopes Duterte will give Indian money lenders a chance to continue their trade because they are ready to pay taxes to the government.
But he also stressed that Indian businessman will voluntarily leave the country if the President decides to launch a crackdown on the 5-6 scheme.
"Kung talagang gustong aalis kami dito, wala namang problema, basta bigyan ng time... Kung gusto nilang magbayad ng tax, kung anong gusto nila, sundin naman ang sabi ng President," he said.
(If they really want us to leave, there's no problem, as long as they give us time... If they want us to pay taxes, we will obey what the President says.)
These sentiments were shared by his friend, Ranjit Singh, who urged the government to issue permits for 5-6 businessmen, whom he said have contributed to the growth of Philippine economy.
"Hindi naman kami gumagawa ng masamang bagay. Actually, we're helping the community and the economy sa Pilipinas," said Ranjit, the son of an Indian money lender and a Filipina.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre noted last week that while the high interest rate in the "5-6" scheme is technically legal because the Usury Law has been repealed, those involved may still be arrested for operating without permit.
“Pwedeng hulihin iyang mga iyan. They are operating without any permit or license. Very stringent ang requirements dyan, it is lending. So, bago ka makapagpatayo ng lending activity, katakot-takot na papeles at application ang gagawin mo,” Aguirre said.
(They can be arrested for that. They are operating without any permit or license. Building a lending business has requirements.)
The Duterte government is pilot-testing the "Pondo Para sa Pagbabago at Pagasenso (Change and Progress Fund)" which offers loans with zero to little interest, to help the poor start businesses and wean them off loan sharks.
-- With a report from Dennis Datu, DZMM