Palace says 3rd stimulus package not needed for now

A third round of assistance programs to cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic is not necessary for now, Malacañang said on Thursday.

“We call our 2021 budget a stimulus package. It includes a trillion for Build-Build-Build, which will provide millions of jobs for our countrymen. For now, we will use our budget as a stimulus. Let’s see first if the (budget) will be effective, otherwise that will be right that we will have a Bayanihan III,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. said in mixed English and Filipino during a televised news briefing.

He also said the President is set to issue a price ceiling on food items to alleviate rising costs.

Emmanuel J. Lopez, dean of the Graduate School of Colegio de San Juan de Letran, disagrees saying, “The government cannot just impose price control on food items considering that it is supply-based. The least that the government can do is stimulate the economy by providing stimulus package through increase consumer spending to activate all sectors of the economy, inducing production of now stagnant agriculture sector,” he told BusinessWorld in a Viber message.

The country’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by 9.5% in the last quarter of 2020, according to latest data of the state statistics agency. While government expenditure grew 4.4% year-on-year in the same quarter, household spending declined by 7.2%.

“Rising food prices amid high unemployment and collapsing family incomes just makes a real stimulus package all the more urgent. And even more so with today’s report that the economy contracted 9.5% last year,” IBON Foundation Executive Director Sonny A. Africa told BusinessWorld in a Viber message on Wednesday.

Two laws were passed last year — the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, also known as the Bayanihan 1 under Republic Act No. 11469, and the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan II under Republic Act No. 11494 — providing funding for coronavirus response measures. Bayanihan 1 reallocated about P275 billion of the 2020 budget for the emergency subsidy program, while Bayanihan II provided P165.5 billion for measures to boost the economy.

A Bayanihan III law under House Bill No. 8031, which provides for an additional P400-billion stimulus package, has been filed by Marikina Rep. Stella Luz A. Quimbo. It is intended to respond to the challenges brought about by the pandemic along with the onslaught of several typhoons late last year.

“I urge the economic managers to take a second look at the Bayanihan III bills pending in Congress. My version proposes a 400-billion-peso spending, P330 billion as COVID response and P70 billion as disaster response,” she told BusinessWorld in a Viber message. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

LTO to be probed over failure to implement bigger motorcycle plates

THE Land Transportation Office (LTO) will be investigated by the Senate for the slow implementation of the Motorcycle Crime Prevention Act, which Senator Richard J. Gordon said was a reflection of the agency’s “incompetence.”

LTO officials reported before the Senate justice committee hearing on Thursday that they have produced just one million new motorcycle plates out of its 13 million target by 2022.

“I will now call a formal hearing of the Blue-Ribbon committee motu proprio,” Mr. Gordon said during the hearing on the spate of killings in the country.

“We will now call you to answer why you must not be charged for malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance, all the way to the secretary of transportation to the LTO commissioner.”

The law, enacted in 2019, is intended to prevent the killings by riding-in-tandem gunmen through the issuance of bigger, more readable and color-coded number plates.

LTO Operations Division Chief Mercy Jane Paras-Leynes initially told the committee that the supplier has so far produced 1,000 plates that were distributed in Metro Manila, then later clarified the LTO has produced one million upon verification.

On this note, Mr. Gordon questioned the competence of the agency.

“It’s called incompetence. You do not come here and tell us 1,000 then when threatened with a Blue-Ribbon investigation, it will become million,” the senator said, partly in Filipino.

“You think we’re fools here? You’re insulting the intelligence of the Senate… you better prove that you have one million.” — Charmaine A. Tadalan