By Vann Marlo M. Villegas, Reporter

A SENATE committee is seeking to give Congress the option to increase the assistance to be provided to businesses affected by the pandemic, beyond the P10 billion currently being considered in current legislation.

Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian said the senate banking committee retained the P10 billion to be provided to government financial institutions to assist businesses affected by the pandemic under the proposed Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery (GUIDE) Act.

“P10 billion pa rin siya (It’s still at P10 billion) because that’s the available cash and then Congress can add more,” Mr. Gatchalian, the vice chairman of the committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies, said in a phone interview.

Ang importante dito (The important thing is), the special holding company (proposed in GUIDE) will be incorporated and then after that, Congress, because of its power of the purse… can add more,” he added. “So if it deems necessary to add more capital, it can add more capital.”

Mr. Gatchalian said the panel is hoping to sponsor the bill to the plenary session this week.

The committee also wants to waive transaction fees and documentary stamp tax for micro, small and medium enterprises seeking to borrow from government financial institutions.

“That’s approximately 20% of the borrowing cost, so malaking bagay ‘yan na mawe-waive siya (It would be a big thing if those were waived),” he said.

The measure will also authorize the incorporation of a special holding company that will invest in “strategically important companies,” or those employing many workers with extensive supply networks.

“The government now can invest in those companies for purposes for retaining employment, retaining their employees and for purposes of stabilizing the company until the pandemic ends,” he said.

GUIDE legislation provides P10 billion to government banks as assistance to businesses, with P2.5 billion allocated to the Development Bank of the Philippines and P7.5 billion to the Land Bank of the Philippines.

The amount will be invested in a special holding company which will lead the rehabilitation of distressed firms.

Mr. Gatchalian in March said the Senate is looking into increasing the P10 billion, calling it “miniscule” relative to the economic losses suffered by businesses.

The House of Representatives approved the GUIDE bill on third and final reading in March.

Congress will resume session on Monday and will adjourn on June 5.