The government will pour over a trillion pesos into a socioeconomic strategy to fight the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

The package includes a P35-billion wage subsidy for the employees of small businesses.

The four-pillar program is contained in a document Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd shared with reporters in a Viber message.

In the document, preliminary Department of Finance (DoF) estimates showed that the government is ready to spend P1.17 trillion or 6.3 percent of the country’s gross domestic product or GDP to combat the pandemic.

Under the program, P305.21 billion will go to emergency support for vulnerable groups and individuals; P35.72 billion to the resources to fight Covid-19; P830.47 billion to the fiscal and monetary actions; and the rest to an economic recovery plan.

Here is the breakdown of the strategy:

– Pillar 1: P205-billion emergency subsidy for 18 million low-income families in the informal sector; a P30-billion top up for local governments’ support for vulnerable constituents; P16.5 billion for rice programs of the Departments of Agriculture and Trade and Industry to raise productivity and boost the buffer stock; P10-billion Land Bank of the Philippines emergency loan for local governments; P2.8-billion for zero-interest loans for affected farmers and fishers; P3.5-billion cash assistance for displaced local workers and overseas Filipino workers; and P1-billion loan program for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

– Pillar 2: P2.9 billion from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office; P150-million grant from the Asian Development Bank; access to a P5-billion World Bank fast-track loan facility to buy medical supplies and testing kits; and P1.8 billion for buying 1 million personal protective equipment or PPE sets for the Department of Health.

– Pillar 3: P310-billion additional financing from various multilateral and bilateral sources; the P300-billion repurchase agreement between the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the Bureau of the Treasury; the regulatory relief for BSP-supervised financial institutions; the extension of tax-compliance and loan payment deadlines; documentary stamp tax exemption of credit extensions or restructuring of loan payments; and increase of stock purchases volumes of state pension funds of at least P1 billion to support the local bourse.

– Pillar 4: includes the designing of a recovery plan for a post-quarantine scenario; the nationwide survey to assess the damage to industries, especially the MSMEs; and the continued investment in social and infrastructure programs to help revive and sustain economic growth, among others.

Dominguez also said the government was trying to put together more than P35 billion in aid to employees of small firms that closed down because of the extended enhanced community quarantine.

“Last week, we announced that we are working on a program to assist the employees of MSMEs and next week we will announce the details,” he told The Manila Times in a text message.

Dominguez was responding to a proposal of Rep. José Ma. Clemente “Joey” Salceda for a P45-billion wage subsidy for the 5.98 million people employed by SMEs and for freelancers.

Dominguez said the country’s strong fiscal performance last year gave the government “a lot of room to maneuver” in handling the Covid-19 emergency.

Funding has come from Republic Act 11469, or the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act,” which granted President Rodrigo Duterte the power to use funds of the state-owned firms and to realign the 2020 national budget during the period of contagion; the P300-billion repurchase agreement between the BSP and the Bureau of the Treasury; and the government’s “very active” negotiations with the Asian Development Bank, World Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank for loans amounting to $5.7 billion (over P288 billion).

Another House member, Deputy Majority Leader and Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette Herrera, said the government should make sure MSMEs get the support they need not only to keep their businesses afloat but also to prevent more people from losing their jobs.

Herrera said 99.52 percent of business in the country are MSMEs.

“In 2018, these MSMEs collectively generated a total of 5,714,262 jobs or 63.19 percent of the country’s total employment,” she said. “This is why it is crucial for the government to extend more assistance to this sector.”

Agusan del Norte First District Rep. Lawrence Fortun proposed a one-time cash dole-out of P5,000 for lower middle class families with non-salaried members.

Fortun said the government must look into the databases of its agencies to identify lower middle-income citizens that will qualify as beneficiaries.

Among the sectors covered by his proposal are registered kasambahay (household helpers), licensed security guards, indigent and low-income college students, and low-income individual members of cooperatives.

Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go meanwhile reiterated his appeal for additional support to MSMEs and their employees affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Let us help them maintain their businesses and uplift the welfare of their employees while the entire country is in crisis,” Go said.

To avoid duplication and to ensure that more Filipinos benefit from various government programs, Go said the beneficiaries of the subsidy program for MSME employees must be different from the 18 million families being assisted by programs under the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

MAYVELIN U. CARABALLO DIVINA NOVA JOY DELA CRUZ AND BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO



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