THE TRADE department is seeking additional funding for small business loans, saying that it expects to commit P5 billion to finance such companies by the end of June.

The program for businesses affected by the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has tallied P4.5 billion worth of loans for 30,408 applicants, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said in a statement Thursday.

“In view of this, there is a need to replenish this fund if we are to lend out to more MSMEs (micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises) affected by the pandemic,” Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said.

The COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) program of the Small Business Corp. draws P1 billion from the 2021 General Appropriations Act and P4 billion from Bayanihan II, or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act.

Expecting these funds to be fully committed by the end of this month, Mr. Lopez said it “will be requiring replenishment as the country continues to rebuild economically from the ongoing worldwide pandemic.”

He said small businesses should continue to apply for such loans.

“With this microfinancing program providing collateral-free and interest-free loans to businesses affected by the pandemic, our MSMEs can begin to rebuild their respective businesses and take part in the recovery that has started around the world,” he said. 

Another P6 billion in loans reserved for tourism businesses are still being issued. The DTI is working with the Tourism department to promote the program.

“The two agencies expect an acceleration in the utilization of CARES for travel as more tourism economic activities are starting to reopen with the easing of community quarantine restrictions,” the DTI said.

Tourism businesses have been reluctant to apply for the loans, the Tourism Congress of the Philippines said in January. The DTI earlier this year said fewer small businesses had been applying for the loan program due to low business confidence. — Jenina P. Ibañez