MANILA – Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Wednesday pushed for the immediate passage of a measure that would establish a stimulus program to “restore economic growth, maintain employment levels, and expand the productive capacity of the country” in the aftermath of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
“In order to offset and mitigate the damages that Covid-19 brought to our country, measures should be put in place through legislative enactments,” Sotto said.
He said the intent of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Republic Act 11469) is to cushion the effects of Covid-19 on the country’s health system and its citizens but “it did not cover the economic effect of this pandemic.”
“The country’s economic base could collapse if urgent measures are not set in place the soonest time possible,” Sotto said.
He said this was why he filed Senate Bill (SB) 1542 to enable the government to swiftly revive the economy once it relaxes current strict community quarantines that have been imposed to minimize the health impact of Covid-19.
The proposed measure seeks to “establish an economic stimulus strategy for the country’s growth and development” following the pandemic.
The bill’s salient features include mandatory immediate mass testing for Covid-19; wage subsidies for non-essential businesses, freelancers, self-employed, and repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs); expansion of the Tertiary Education subsidy provided under RA 10931 to include students whose families are now facing financial difficulties due to the various community quarantines, and waiving of registration and other related fees; and the grant of special trading accommodations for a limited time to micro, small and medium enterprises plus start-ups (MSMEs+).
The measure likewise directs the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippine to establish a Special Interest-Free Loan Fund and provide interest-free loans to non-essential businesses and MSMEs+.
Sotto also proposed that the Department of Tourism (DOT) and its sub-agencies should assist critically impacted DOT-accredited tourism enterprises.
“Our situation could get worst if our government will not act swiftly,” he warned, urging his colleagues to immediately act on SB 1542.
“Lawmakers need to work fast in giving back life to our economy. We cannot dilly-dally until the last minute. Measures to help revive businesses adversely affected by the Covid-19 crisis should be enacted with haste to prevent the economy from total collapse,” Sotto said. (PNA)