26,000 loan applications for pandemic-hit firms in limbo; Pangilinan notes DBM 'bottleneck'

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 18 2020 03:11 PM | Updated as of Nov 18 2020 05:23 PM

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

MANILA (UPDATE) - Loan applications of some 26,000 micro, small and medium businesses have yet to be processed about 8 months after many establishments in the country were forced to suspend operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said Wednesday.

The DTI could not approve some of the loans because they have yet to receive funding, Senate Committee on Finance chair Sen. Sonny Angara said, as he sponsored the DTI's budget in the Senate plenary

"They (DTI) hope the money can be released so they can approve more loans," he said.

Under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2), the DTI is entitled to get P10 billion to provide loans and assistance packages that would help restart businesses forced shut by the pandemic.

Under the program, each establishment may borrow up to P500,000.

As of mid-November, the DTI has only approved 1,660 loans for micro, small and medium businesses, amounting to a total of P1.2 billion.

Should funding for the program be released, the DTI can finish the processing of the 26,000 loan applications by December, Angara said.

"The DTI says they are quick to process. It takes just about a week to process these loans," he said.

As of mid-November, 5 percent of establishments in the Philippines have yet to reopen, according to data from the DTI.

The "bottleneck" is with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), opposition Sen. Francis Pangilinan said.

"Walang problema ang DTI dahil naipamahagi nila yung P1 bilyon na ipiniaabot sa kanila," he said.

"May problema sa mabagal na burukrasya na dapat kalampagin," he said.

(There is no problem with the DTI because they were able to distribute their P1 billion allocation. The problem is with slow bureaucracy that needs to be prompted to action.)

Pangilinan noted that the DBM also failed to release some P80 million for the Department of Social Welfare and Development, constraining the government's social amelioration program amid the global pandemic.

Senators earlier agreed to pass a resolution to urge the DBM to disburse funds to agencies as soon as possible before the Bayanihan 2 law and the 2020 national budget expire next month.

As of October 2020, the DBM has released P8 billion to the Small Business Corporation for the "implementation of the COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) Program and for its lending programs," Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said.

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