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P370-B postpandemic funding pushed

By:  – Correspondent / @melvingasconINQ
 / 05:38 AM April 15, 2020


MANILA, Philippines — The government will need P370 billion in additional spending as part of the economic stimulus package to help the country bounce back from the dire impact of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, a Marikina lawmaker said on Tuesday.

Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo said the proposed measure she filed sought to strengthen the country’s economy and make sure that businesses would not shut down, and Filipinos would not suffer job losses or cuts in their incomes.

“To put it simply: COVID-19 is like a storm for the fisherfolk; the boat broke, and the fishing nets were torn. So temporarily, government had to break the cardinal rule of not giving fish to the fishermen,” she said.

“Government fixes the boat, it fixes the wheels of the economy. We ensure business continuity, and this way, we protect the Filipino worker,” she added in a speech delivered during a virtual meeting of the technical working group of the Defeat COVID-19 special House committee.

P1-T economic loss seen

According to Quimbo, her bill, titled “Economy Moving Forward as One,” recognizes the grim effect of the COVID-19 crisis on Filipinos, which is expected to cause the Philippine economy a loss of around P1.08 trillion.

Thus, government needs a spending of an additional P370 billion, on top of the P300 billion it has already rolled out through the social amelioration program under the present Bayanihan To Heal As One Act.

“We also need to plan for our future. The next time that another COVID strikes us, we should be better prepared. This is about building economic resilience: The ability of the eco­nomy to withstand and recover from shocks,” she said.

Based on her estimates, the impact of COVID-19 on gross domestic product will require the government to spend around P700 billion to prop the anticipated sagging economy.

Stimulus fund

The proposed P370 billion fiscal stimulus fund, she said, will be used for the following: P110 billion for wage subsidies for companies that were forced to suspend operations but continued to pay salaries of their workers during the enhanced community quarantine; P140 billion for inte­rest-free loans at expanded loan guarantees to businesses; and P119 billion for grants to me­dium and small-scale enterprises, tou­rism-related businesses, and exporters and importers.

Government may have to provide compensation for sick leaves of employees that private companies had to pay, Quimbo said.

“Many sectors are affected by COVID: It affects all sizes of firms, especially the small ones. Each firm has a specific situation or context. It would be very difficult for government to provide a tailor-fitted solution for each one,” she said.

Quimbo said her proposal would allow government to “help businesses help themselves.”

The Marikina lawmaker-­economist said she arrived at her figures based on studies conduc­ted by the Philippine Statistical Authority: The Annual Survey of Philippine Business and Industry, and the Family Income and Expenditure Survey.

“Congress and the executive department, through the various government agencies, will have to work together, including the private sector, in crafting a law that will aim to protect the wor­kers,” she said.