MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has asked Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III to look for more sources to fund the government’s response against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
In a public address aired over state-run PTV-4 late Monday night, Duterte said the initial PHP100 billion fund for one month or PHP270 billion for two months is “not enough money to go around”.
Unlike the Pasig River, he said the government’s funds would eventually run out.
“I’m calling on the Secretary of Finance to generate. Magnakaw ka, maghiram ka, wala akong pakialam, i-produce mo ‘yung pera kasi ‘pag naubos na ito… Hindi ko malaman (Steal, borrow, I don’t care, produce money because if this runs out…I don’t know what will happen),” he said.
Under the Bayanihan to Heal as One law or Republic Act No. 11469, the government has set aside a PHP200 billion emergency subsidy for about 18 million low-income families affected by the month-long enhanced community quarantine of Luzon.
These low-income households will be receiving financial assistance between PHP5,000 and PHP8,000.
Duterte made this call after confirming that he received the letter of Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla requesting the government to include middle-class families in the government’s Social Amelioration Program (SAP).
“Sinulatan ako ni Governor Jonvic Remulla…who is appealing to include the middle class in their constituency because kailangan din nila (they also need it). Ako (Me) I agree, I know the political-economic horizon of the country,” he said.
He said he agreed with Remulla that the health crisis brought by Covid-19 affected everyone and “not just the poorest of the poor”.
“Alam ko na (I know) we cannot just focus or zero in itong the poorest of the poor. It’s actually a — it has bloomed into something ginagamit sa politika ng mga politiko na (that politicians use) ‘will go for the poorest of the poor’. Pero ‘yan talaga ang totoo (But that’s the truth),” he said.
He said he would try to look into ways to include the middle class, but admitted that it would be a difficult task.
“I will discuss it when I reach the point raised by Governor Remulla of Cavite which I think is valid. We’ll try to remedy whatever kung may mapulot pa tayo sa daan (if we can pick up some from the road),” he said.
He said he really wanted the social amelioration program to cover everyone, but the funds were only enough to cover low-income households.
A greater challenge, he said, is that the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine has forced the economy to be on standstill.
“The economy is not moving, standstill, so wala tayong kita. Ang ginagamit natin ito na ‘yung nireserba natin na pera (so we have no earnings. What we’re using now is the money we have reserved),” he said.
He reiterated the importance of providing immediate assistance to the vulnerable citizens or they would have nothing to eat.
“Ang unahin natin ang tao, ang tiyan. Kasi ‘pag wala ng kinakain (Let’s prioritize people and their stomachs. Because if they have nothing to eat), a human being can be violent,” he said.
Meanwhile, he sought for cooperation and patience, vowing to manage the distribution of food and other assistance so that everyone gets their equal share.
His appeal comes after around 21 persons demanding food and other assistance were arrested in Quezon City for holding a protest rally sans government permit on April 1. (PNA)