MANILA - Presidential candidates on Saturday underscored the Philippines' need to strengthen its agriculture sector and hike support for small businesses to hasten economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Candidates who said agriculture should be prioritized included former Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella, labor leader Leody De Guzman, and Manila Isko Moreno Domagoso.
"Ang plano po natin diyan ay gawin siyang (Philippines) na isang agricultural powerhouse... to be able to provide food and jobs," Abella said.
(Our plan is to make the Philippines an agricultural powerhouse... to be able to provide food and jobs.)
"Dapat mamuhunan tayo, payabungin ang katayuan ng ating mga magsasaka," Domagoso said.
(We have to invest, improve the condition of our farmers.)
"Hindi tayo puwede umaasa nang umasa na lamang sa mga imported products na kaya naman i-produce ng mga mangingisda, maghahayop [natin]," he added.
(We cannot keep on relying on imported products which our farmers and fisherfolk can produce locally.)
De Guzman meanwhile wanted the Rice Tariffication Act repealed.
"Kinakailangan nating lumikha ng ating pangangailangan at hindi pwedeng lahat na lang ng ating pangangailangan ay iniimport natin at napakamahal ubos ang ating naipong yaman dito sa ating bansa," the labor leader said.
(We need to produce our needs and and we cannot rely on imports because they're too expensive, our funds will be depleted.)
Former defense secretary Norberto Gonzales, Senators Panfilo Lacson and Manny Pacquiao, and Leni Robredo pushed for better programs for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
"Bubuksan ng pamahalaan ang sources ng capital... upang ang capital ay makarating sa mga kababayan natin na gusto magkaroon agad ng hanapbuhay," Gonzales said.
(The government will open sources of capital so that it can reach our compatriots who want to have a livelihood.)
"Ang kailangan unahin, magkaroon ng fiscal comprehensive stimulus, yung targeted at comprehensive stimulus para sa MSMEs, tulungan natin silang bumangon kasi napakalaki ng tama sa ating ekonomiya pagdating sa sektor ng MSMEs," Lacson said.
(We need to prioritize a fiscal comprehensive stimulus, a targeted at comprehensive stimulus for MSMEs, we need to hep them recover because the impact on our economic when it comes to MSMEs was huge.)
Pacquiao and Robredo proposed adjustments and additional funding for loans dedicated to MSMEs.
"Para mabigyan talaga ang milyon-milyon ng trabaho palakasin natin ang micro, medium, small enterprises, papautangin natin yung maliliit na negosyante ng zero-interest para makapag-start sila," Pacquiao said.
(To create millions of jobs, let us strengthen micro, medium, small enterprises, we will offer small businessmen zero-interest loans so they could start.)
"Magpo-propose po ako P100-billion stimulus fund para buhayin uit ang MSMEs," Robredo said.
(I will propose a P100-billion stimulus fund to revive MSMEs.)
"Ang portion ay conditional cash grant ang other portion ay low interest loans, pero ang stimulus fund ay dapat mapunta sa capacity building, sa pagtulong sa kanila na mag-digitize, matulungan sila na makahanap ng maayos na merkado," she said.
(One portion will go to conditional cash grant, the other portion is for low-interest loans. But the stimulus fund should go to capacity-building, assistance for them to digitize, help them find a good market.)
It is unclear which sector presidential aspirants Faisal Mangondato and Jose Montemayor Jr. wanted to prioritize post-pandemic. They instead gave suggestions on how to manage the economy.
"Kapag malaki ang ating ekonomiya, malakas ang ekonomiya ng ating bansa, lahat ng programa ng ating bansa ay mapupursige," Mangondato said.
(If our economy is strong, all programs can be pursued.)
"Yung fiscal policy natin ay yung mag-spend tayo. We have to stimulate the economy by government spending... Sa mga pamilya, iopen natin yung discount windows not just sa mga cooperatives," Montemayor said.
(Our fiscal policy is to spend. We have to stimulate the economy by government spending. For families, let us open discount windows, not just to cooperatives.)
The Philippine economy in 2020 suffered its steepest postwar slump due to lockdowns aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19.
The coronavirus omicron variant, which drove a surge of infections earlier this year, may delay to 2023 the country's economic recovery to pre-pandemic level, an analyst earlier said.