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Economic team proposes P131-B in relief measures

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PHILIPPINE STAR/EDD GUMBAN

THE government’s economic managers proposed to Congress on Thursday P131 billion in new programs to help the vulnerable members of the population deal with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) emergency.

The package for relief measures is known as “Bayanihan II” as a follow-up to the initial measures contained in the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act or Republic Act 11469, according to a presentation made by the Economic Development Cluster (EDC) to the House of Representatives.

The P131 billion total is equivalent to 0.67% of gross domestic product (GDP).

Some P50 billion from the relief component will supplement the capital of state-owned Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).

A further P30 billion from the relief component will go to the government’s emergency subsidy program while P21 billion more will be directed to the wage subsidy program. The extra funds are expected to benefit nine million families and 2.6 million workers, respectively.

So far, the government has rolled out a P205-billion social amelioration program to help poor families and those in the informal sector during the lockdown, as well as a P51-billion wage subsidy program for affected employees of small businesses.

The cluster also proposed P20 billion for the government’s credit guarantee program to help affected businesses gain access to loans for working capital, as well as P10 billion to buy 3.5 million more test kits.

The proposal also includes low-interest loans and reallocated budgets for priority projects identified under the Build, Build, Build infrastructure program and the affected sectors.

The Bayanihan II was part of the entire economic recovery component “PH-Progreso,” worth P711 billion or equivalent to 3.8% of GDP.

Detailed breakdowns are not yet available, beyond the stipulation that P551 billion will be provided via adjustments to monetary policy, financial sector regulatory relief measures, reallocated savings from the 2019 and 2020 budgets and contributions from private sector.The sources for the remaining P160 billion will be generated via fiscal policy measures through the national government budget.

In a separate news conference Thursday, NEDA Acting Director-General Karl Kendrick T. Chua said the proposed recovery plan will focus on building confidence in the safety of public life and stimulating domestic demand once the country slowly transitions out of strict lockdown measures.

The economic team, which includes the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the Department of Finance (DoF), has been working on a recovery plan to help the country adapt to the post-pandemic reality.

“The key here in the recovery plan is to enhance the confidence of the people (that) it is safe to go to the grocery, go to work, that is our top priority,” Mr. Chua said.

The second priority is to “stimulate domestic demand” which Mr. Chua said can be done by enhancing the entire food value chain, from farms, logistics, food product and preparation up to the point of sale.

NEDA has been conducting rapid surveys to assess the impact of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) on businesses, collecting 44,000 responses from micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, 8,000 from agriculture sector and 300,000 from consumers.

While full results are not yet available, Mr. Chua has said that the surveys show businesses sustained some P700 billion in losses because of the quarantine, while many enterprises were under pressure to retain jobs.

The House is currently legislating the proposed Philippine Economic Stimulus Act (PESA) in its various versions, including consolidated bills originally proposed by Representative Jose Maria Clemente S. Salceda of Albay and Marikina Rep. Stella Luz A. Quimbo of Marikina.

According to Rep. Sharon S. Garin of the AAMBIS-OWA Party-List, who co-chairs the House’s Defeat COVID-19 committee economic stimulus cluster, the latest draft of PESA proposes about P475 billion in the first year of the intervention period of 2020–2022. It is currently being discussed at committee level.

The draft bill declares as its priorities the preservation of jobs and targeted assistance to industries.

“Primarily, the interventions are not direct amelioration or dole outs, otherwise they won’t be sustainable and affordable,” Ms. Garin told reporters via Viber on May 5, Tuesday.

The EDC is chaired by the DoF, with its members: NEDA and the Departments of Trade and Industry; Budget and Management; Public Works and Highways; Transportation and Communication; Energy; Science and Technology; Tourism; Agriculture; and Interior and Local Government. — BML and GLE

Note: The story has been edited to include the Bayanihan II under the PH Progreso





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