MANILA – Malacañang on Tuesday said it does not yet see a need for the government to sell public properties to boost the social amelioration program (SAP) funding in areas under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the remark after President Rodrigo Duterte, in a public address late Sunday night, again bared that the government is running out of funds to provide cash aid for low-income households under MECQ.
Duterte previously broached the idea of selling public properties if the government falls short of funds that could be tapped to address the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
However, according to Roque, the government has billions in loans secured from other countries and foreign organizations.
“Well, ang pangako naman ng Presidente, maski ubos na ang ating budget, kaya naman na, unang-una, gamitin natin iyong mga salapi na mauutang natin. Iyan naman po ang kabutihan na napakaganda ng ating credit rating – madali tayong makautang na mas maliit ang interes (Well, the President promised that even if we run out of funds, we can use every peso from our loans. That’s the benefit of our good credit rating – we can easily secure loans with little interest),” he said in a virtual Palace briefing.
While he does not see the sale of public properties necessary at this point, Roque said they could be sold as a last resort.
“Kung hindi pa sapat, talagang ibibenta niya ang ari-arian ng gobyerno. Pero sa ngayon naman po, hindi pa po kinakailangan dahil tayo naman po ay nagma-manage as of now (If it’s not enough, he will really sell them. But at this point in time, it is not necessary because we can still manage),” he said.
Roque acknowledged that looking for a source of funding for the supposed third tranche of cash aid is a “big challenge” since Congress has yet to approve the “Bayanihan 2” bill that contains a stimulus package for the country’s recovery from the impact of Covid-19.
The Senate last week passed the Bayanihan 2 bill while the House of Representatives has yet to pass its version of the measure.
“Medyo malaking hamon po talaga itong ayuda para sa third tranche para dito sa Metro Manila at mga karatig na probinsiya ng Metro Manila, pero hahanapan po natin ng paraan iyan (Giving assistance for the third tranche is really a big challenge in Metro Manila and nearby provinces but we will find a way),” he said.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has maintained that there is no need to sell state assets because the government entered the pandemic on a strong fiscal position.
Dominguez also cited government borrowings intended to finance the Covid-19 response.
Meanwhile, Roque said the Palace would hold on to the promise of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to finish distributing the second tranche of cash aid by the second week of August.
“Mahigit kalahati na po ng second tranche ay napamigay. Ang hinihingi lang po ng DSWD, hanggang mid-August para matapos iyong 100 percent (Almost half of the second tranche has been distributed. The DSWD is asking for a deadline until mid-August to meet the 100 percent),” he said.
As of Monday, the DSWD has distributed PHP61.8 billion worth of cash aid to some 9.5 million poor households. (PNA)