Duterte says he'll sell gov't assets to pay coronavirus loans

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said he would sell the government’s assets as a last resort to generate funds and pay off loans acquired to help the Philippines address the coronavirus outbreak. 

What is the endgame? Mauubos talaga ang pera. Ipabili ko lahat ng propedad ng gobyerno. ‘Yang Cultural Center of the Philippines, PICC, lupa diyan – totoo,” Duterte said in a televised briefing aired past midnight on Thursday, April 9. 

“'Pag wala na ako and we are about to sink and really sink, I will sell the assets of government tapos itulong ko sa tao,” he added.  

(What is the endgame? We will run out of money. I’ll sell all the property of the government. That Cultural Center of the Philippines, PICC [Philippine International Convention Center], the land there – really. If there is nothing else I can do and we are bout to sink and really sink, I will sell the assets of government and use it to help people.)

Duterte’s remarks came after Filipinos flooded social media with questions on the government’s funding for measures against the coronavirus outbreak in the country. (READ: What we know so far: Funding the fight vs the coronavirus)

Nasaan na ang P300 billion na pera namin? (Where’s our P300 billion),” Duterte said, referring to the popular question asked online. Wala pa po 'yan. Kokolektahin pa po 'yan, (It’s not there. We still need to collect it),” he answered. 

Cash needed 

Before Duterte issued his remarks, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the country will be borrowing some $5.6 billion (P282 billion) from the Asian Development Bank and World Bank if government funds are not enough to fund programs during the outbreak. 

Dominguez said the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has provided some P830 billion in liquidity as he gave assurances the Philippines had the money to fight the pandemic.

Despite this, he stressed funds should be spent judiciously with priority given to the country’s poorest families, small and medium enterprises, and companies supported by buyers. 

Duterte had earlier ordered Dominguez to ensure more funds were available for the government’s response to the outbreak and its major programs such as the P200 billion social amelioration program provided for in the Bayanihan law.

The funding requirement for the program – plagued by unclear guidelines and logistical gaps – is huge, considering cash will need to be released to families immediately. 

The President warns 

Duterte also used his speech to warn lessors against demanding for rent or evicting tenants during the outbreak, saying this could cause chaos in the country. 

Huwag niyong pilitin ang mga tao kasi talagang mag-eengkwentro tayo. Wag 'nyo akong piliitin to go against the law,” he said.  

(Don’t push people because we will really clash. Do not push me to go against the law.) 

“It's not the time for you to pressure other people because of your right. Talagang mag-eengkwentro tayo (We will really clash).” – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

image