MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday broached the idea of selling public properties if the government falls short of money that will be tapped to address the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
In a speech aired on state-run PTV-4 on late Wednesday night, Duterte said his last resort was to sell government assets, including state-owned institutions Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) which are both located in Pasay City.
“‘Pag maubos talaga ang pera, ipagbili ko lahat ng propriedad ng gobyerno, iyang Cultural Center, PICC. ‘Yung lupa diyan. Totoo (I will sell government properties, the CCP and PICC. That’s true). That’s the last (option) ‘pag wala na akong makuha (if I no longer have the money) and we are about to sink,” he said.
Duterte met with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) on Wednesday night to discuss the government’s efforts to fight Covid-19.
Duterte, upon the recommendation of IATF-EID, has extended the implementation of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the entire Luzon until April 30 to stop the further transmission of Covid-19.
Covid-19 infections in the Philippines has already climbed to 3,870, with 182 deaths and 96 recoveries.
The national government has received PHP275 billion as an emergency fund for Covid-19 response.
Duterte, however, said the government has yet to fully receive the PHP275 billion, explaining that the money still needs to be collected in the second and third quarters of 2020.
“‘Yung budget na pinapatakbo natin (The budget we’re using) was prepared last year but Covid-19 (emergency fund) was not included in that budget,” he said. “It’s not there. Magkokolekta pa ako (I still have to collect the money).”
No source of income
Duterte earlier said the PHP275-billion fund for Covid-19 response will not last long.
In his latest remarks, Duterte admitted that the government has “no source of income now”.
“What is so exasperating is that we are trying our best… There’s no source of income now, except maybe, perhaps ‘yung fixed assets natin, ‘yung mga lupa na may mga building (our fixed assets, the government-owned buildings),” he said.
Duterte said the money he could earn just in case he sells the government properties would be distributed to people who are in need.
“Ako, magbibigay ako sa inyo ng hope. For the time na nandito ako, ako ang control. Ibigay ko lahat. Ipagbili ko lahat ng propriedad ng kung saan. Ibibigay ko sa inyo ‘yan (I will give you hope. I will take control while I’m here. I will sell government properties. I will give you the money). Do not worry about the money,” he said.
Around 18 million poor families have been affected by the crisis brought about by Covid-19.
Some PHP200 billion of the PHP275 billion would be spent to help the 18 million low-income households amid the implementation of Luzon-wide ECQ.
Duterte said he had received assurance from Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III that the government can generate funds to combat Covid-19.
“He (Dominguez) is assuring that we can still stay afloat,” he said. “Sabi niya (He said), we can generate funds. Sabi niya, marami namang mahiraman (He said we can borrow money).”
Dominguez, who was also present during the meeting at Malacañang, ensured that the government is “very well-prepared”.
He said the government would also come up with a program to continuously borrow more money to stop the spread of Covid-19.
“We are confident we have the financial capability to bridge this problem — the Covid-19 has brought us. So we want to assure all our citizens that at this point in time, we have the money although we have to realize na hindi naman endless ‘yung pera na ito (that the spending of this money is not endless). So we have to spend it correctly,” Dominguez said. (PNA)