THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has so far extended P1.2 billion worth of loans to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, much less than the funds allocated, a senator said, citing data from the department.

The loans granted assisted a total of 1,660 MSMEs, while more than 26,000 loan applications are awaiting approval, subject to funding availability, Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara said.

“Of the P10 billion (allocated), only P1 billion has been released as of today, Nov. 18 and the DTI has approved 1,660 loans equivalent to around P1.2 billion,” he said during plenary deliberations on the 2021 national budget Wednesday.

The Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, or Republic Act No. 11494, known informally as Bayanihan II, provided P10 billion for the COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) program and other lending activities of the Small Business Corp.

“Yesterday, we were all concerned about P80.5 billion cash available for DSWD (the Department of Social Welfare and Development). Now we’re talking of P9 billion still to be turned over to the DTI for distressed companies, and we have 26,000 distressed companies crying for help,” Senator Francis N. Pangilinan said.

It was clarified during the session that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has released P8 billion to SB Corp., but SB Corp. was only able to approve the P1.2 billion worth of loans.

Mr. Angara noted the P10 billion Bayanihan II funding for loans will assist around 100,000 MSMEs and 200,000 workers.

In light of the delay in releasing the remaining funds, senators asked the government to speed up the process, as the Bayanihan II law will be expiring on Dec. 19.

The non-release of the funding has been cited in calls to either extend the validity of certain provisions under the Bayanihan II law or enact a new measure that will expedite the release of funds.

The 2021 national budget, as approved by the Committee on Finance, provided P22.012 billion to the DTI.

Of this total, P1.5 billion will be allocated as assistance to MSMEs and P2 billion for the CARES program, which had been expanded from P1.5 billion under the National Expenditure Program.

Mr. Angara said the P2 billion funding is estimated to provide an average of P20,000 worth of loans to 100,000 applicants. — Charmaine A. Tadalan