House eyes P485-B stimulus package to cushion coronavirus impact

The House of Representatives is pushing for the passage of a P485-billion stimulus package aimed at cushioning the economic impact of the coronavirus.  

AAMBIS-OWA Representative Sharon Garin, co-chair of the House Defeat COVID-19 (DCC) committee’s economic stimulus cluster, presented the main provisions of the still-unnumbered bill on the Philippine Economic Stimulus Act (PESA) during her cluster’s virtual meeting on Tuesday, May 5. 

The measure is a consolidated version of the separate bills filed by Garin’s co-chairs, Marikina 2nd District Representative Stella Quimbo and Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Salceda. The bill will have to be approved by the mother panel in the DCC before it can be brought to the plenary. 

Garin explained the proposed fiscal package is designed to protect Filipino workers post-lockdown by ensuring businesses will continue operating and by reviving consumer confidence.  

The proposal is comprehensive – from funding massive COVID-19 testing, providing wage subsidies and offering zero interest loans, to enhancing the government’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program. 

“The economic stimulus bill is a job-protection bill…We can’t afford to have 30 million people lose their jobs… Primarily, the interventions are not direct amelioration or dole outs. Otherwise, it won't be sustainable and affordable,” said Garin. 

Of the P485-billion package, P20 billion alone will be allotted to facilitate mass testing in the country by purchasing more test kits, setting up additional testing centers, and strengthening contact tracing efforts down to the local level. 

“Bakit di gumagana mga negosyo ngayon? Kasi natatakot ang mga taong lumabas ng bahay nila….So businesses like restaurants, retail or any industry don’t have clients pa hanggang ngayon. So we have to build consumer confidence, and testing can drastically help that,” Garin explained. 

(How come industries do not function now? Because people are afraid to go out of their homes... So businesses like restaurants, retail, or any industry don't have clients until now. So we have to build consumer confidence, and testing can drastically help that.)

Apart from mass testing, the proposed fiscal package includes allocations for the following:

  • P130 billion for wage subsidies
  • P20 billion for the expansion of the Tulong Panghanapbuhay program for displaced workers
  • P25 billion for the emergency subsidy for tertiary students affected by COVID-19
  • P30 billion for the Small Business Corporation’s expansion of loan programs for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs)
  • P50 billion for zero-interest loans to be offered by the Landbank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines to companies
  • P50 billion for the Philippine Guarantee Corporation’s special gaurantee fund and additional paid up capital
  • P10 billion for the training, education, and advising of MSMEs by the Department of Trade and Industry
  • P58 billion worth of assistance to the tourism industry
  • P48 billion worth of assistance to the transportation industry
  • P44 billion worth of assistance to export and import industries 
  • P25 billion increase in the National Development Corporation’s capital stock 

The P485 billion is on top of the P275 billion – sourced from government agencies’ revenues from operations – that the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte is tapping for its COVID-19 response, including the emergency subsidy for 18 million poor households. 

The government has also started rolling out a P51-billion subsidy program for middle class workers. 

Duterte’s economic team has so far announced a P27.1-billion package to help frontliners fight the pandemic and provide economic relief to affected sectors. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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