MANILA – The House of Representatives will hold a “modified” hearing on Tuesday (14 April 2020) to discuss the fiscal stimulus plan to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic on the Philippine economy.
In an ambush interview on Monday, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the hearing would be conducted through the video conferencing platform, Zoom, with House economic affairs committee chair Sharon Garin, House ways and means committee chair Joey Salceda, Marikina City Rep. Stella Quimbo, and government’s economic managers.
“May I invite you tomorrow (Tuesday), we will have a modified hearing sa (with our) economic stimulus cluster namin through Zoom which we will invite the media. Magsasalita sa umpisa ‘yung ibang executive then ipe-present ng tatlong congressman, Rep. Joey Salceda, Rep. Sharon Garin, Rep. Stella Quimbo ang proposals nila (The executives would talk first, then our three lawmakers, Rep. Joey Salceda, Rep. Sharon Garin, and Rep. Stella Quimbo would present their proposals),” Cayetano said.
Salceda has crafted a comprehensive coronavirus response package called “Filipino Families First” with a spending plan of PHP169.9 billion to encourage families and businesses to comply with public health measures and to speed up economic recovery after the crisis.
The central feature of Salceda’s bill is negative interest loans. The first package worth PHP50 billion, would be provided to all companies regardless of size and industry sector, and the maximum loanable amount will be based on the number of employees of the company. Family-run small and medium enterprises will also be able to avail of the loans.
The second package of loans, worth PHP45 billion, will be for the tourism sector. The loan will allow the tourism sector to remain liquid and invest in productivity-enhancing and promotional strategies that would pay off once the health emergency abates.
Salceda’s plan will also cover those who cannot go to work due to the community quarantine by placing them temporarily under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
For small businesses, Salceda is proposing supply chain subsidies to manufacturers of critical supplies who will continue to operate, and grants to local government units piloting programs to assist small businesses.
Quimbo’s proposal, meanwhile, seeks to allocate PHP108 billion for a fiscal stimulus package to cushion the pandemic’s impact on the economy.
Under the proposed Economic Rescue Plan for Covid-19, the fiscal stimulus package shall be broken down as follows: PHP43 billion for assistance and promotion of the tourism sector, PHP15 billion for unemployment assistance, and PHP50 billion assistance for business, particularly micro, small, and medium enterprises, which includes loan packages and subsidies.
Cayetano acknowledged that while middle-class families also need financial help during the Covid-19 crisis, he noted that the government has put on hold loan payments and even the payment of taxes to help alleviate financial anxiety amid the enhanced community quarantine.
“So bear with us, wala lang bibitaw (don’t let go). The important thing is ang (that the) enhanced community quarantine is working,” Cayetano said.
“So walang bibitaw, mahirap…tugunan natin ‘yung paghihirap ng tao pero wala po sanang bibitaw kasi kapag tayo ay lumabas ng bahay at tumaas na naman ang numero, sayang naman ‘yung tatlo o apat na linggo (So keep holding on. It’s difficult to meet the needs of people suffering amid the pandemic, but don’t quit because if we go out of our homes and the cases would rise, then the three to four weeks [of quarantine] would go to waste),” he added.
The implementation of ECQ in Luzon will end on April 30.
Apart from Luzon, other local government units in Visayas and Mindanao have imposed their ECQ in their respective localities to address Covid-19.
As of Monday, the Philippines has 4,932 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 315 deaths and 242 recoveries. (PNA)