THE Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) has proposed that micro and small businesses be given access to cash-transfer funds normally disbursed to poor households, to help them deal with the impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019).

“If large enterprises are already reeling, the impact is magnified among micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME),” PCCI said Wednesday among a list of proposals for relief measures to affected industries and enterprises.

The proposal involves the use of the funding set aside for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), which issues conditional and unconditional cash transfers to poor families. Some of the conditions for receiving assistance include keeping children in school and submitting to periodic health checks.

The chamber also proposed that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) offer special financing for such firms’ working capital and equipment and machinery acquisition needs.

“To say that the business sector is adversely affected is an understatement. Community quarantine means standstill on many economic activities. And for a country whose growth primarily relies on consumption, with services as a leading economic sector, community quarantine could lead to great economic costs,” the chamber said.

The government’s economic team has put together a P27.1-billion stimulus package to cushion the impact of the outbreak, which has shut down transport and kept most people at home.

Of this package, at least P1 billion was allocated to DTI’s loan program for MSMEs.

In a message to reporters, DTI Secretary Ramon M. Lopez described the performance of the Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso (P3) program as “excellent” since it was launched in 2017.

Mr. Lopez reported that the loan program, which was created to discourage small firms from turning to usurers, has a 98% repayment rate.

This year, DTI has a P1.5-billion budget for its loan program, which serves small businesses with assets of not more than P3 million. — Adam J. Ang