Lower House eyes P613-billion post-coronavirus economic stimulus package

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 22 2020 01:06 AM

MANILA - The House of Representatives on Tuesday released a P613-billion economic stimulus package proposal to help workers and businesses cope with the fallout of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Technical Working Group of the House Defeat COVID-19 Committee drafted a consolidated version of the stimulus package proposals of Reps. Joey Salceda of Albay and Stella Quimbo of Marikina.

The proposal includes P110 billion for critical businesses, 75 percent of minimum wage for self-employed and freelancers, and 75 percent average foreign wage for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

With a possible extension of the lockdown, Quimbo said the country would lose an additional 270 billion, bumping up total estimated cost to P1.35 trillion.

“This means that my originally proposed amount of P370 billion for economic stimulus will have to be adjusted upwards. Under the scenario of extended lockdown, we would need P552 billion for economic stimulus. I thus welcome the consolidation of my proposal with that of Rep. Joey Salceda," she said.

"The general approach of the consolidated bill is consistent with mine that business continuity needs to be ensured so that workers are protected from lay-offs. Affected firms need liquidity boosts through wage subsidies and zero interest loans plus grants to help firms cope with higher health standards and adopt new ways of business in the post-COVID world. The final amount of the stimulus package will depend on sources of financing," she added.

House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez said the stimulus package would ensure that workers would not lose their jobs because of the crisis. 

"This package is meant to rescue 29 million Filipinos, or exactly 29,630,194 workers, from threats of joblessness or reduced income due to the enhanced community quarantine," he said.

Romualdez said the beneficiaries would include 6.5 million Filipinos working in the tourism industry, nearly 500,000 in the trade sector and and also those in the transportation service.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez told lawmakers that the Duterte administration has now committed P1.491 trillion to combat COVID-19. 

This includes P590 billion in emergency support for low-income families, a credit guarantee for small businesses worth P120 billion, a loan assistance worth P2.5 billion for agriculture, among others.

Dominguez said the national government also have P58.5 billion to expand medical resources to supports efforts against COVID-19.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Ben Diokno, for his part, said they have done a lot to reduce the costs for borrowers. It has also provided incentives to banks who will lend to businesses in distress. 

To aid distressed industries like airlines and hotels, Diokno is batting for passage of a law similar to Republic Act 9182 or the Special Purpose Asset Vehicle Act to grant perks to those who invest in the non-performing assets of banks.

LandBank of the Philippines President Cecillia Borromero, for her part, backed the proposed economic stimulus package, suggesting that the Landbank and Development Bank implement all loan programs. She also batted for Landbank to be tapped in the distribution of wage subsidies.

Borromero is suggesting that the National Development Corporation be repurposed to serve the proposed functions of the National Emergency Investment Corporation meant to bail out ailing businesses instead of creating a new entity given the gestation period for new companies.

GSIS Chairman Rolando Macasaet suggested that Congress grant additional sick leaves for government workers afflicted with COVID- 19.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, meanwhile, said the lower chamber would reconvene on May 4 but if the enhanced community quarantine is still in effect, lawmakers will have to do another virtual session.

He said the government is looking at all the concerns of all the industries.

Manila Teacher’s Party-list Representative Virgilio “VG” S. Lacson, chairman of the Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development, recommended the relaxing of the Enhanced Community Quarantine in selected areas to allow MSMEs and informal entrepreneurs to resume business activities in their respective localities. - Report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News