PRA pushes for measures to help retailers
Louella Desiderio (The Philippine Star) - May 18, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Retailers Association (PRA) is pushing for measures such as making available low-interest loans and suspending the collection of interest on existing loans to enable retailers to restart and sustain operations amid the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 crisis. 

In a position paper, PRA said that while the lifting of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) allows retailers to open their doors again, many have little or no income on hand with mounting past due bills to pay. 

PRA said retailers would urgently need access to cash not just to pay suppliers, landlords, utilities, banks, and employees, but also to recapitalize and invest in future operations.

“The availability of low-interest loans, capped at a maximum of three percent interest per year, and payable in five years or more, coursed through government financial institutions, private banks, or both, will be of great help to ensure the livelihood of the millions of Filipinos who depend on retailing for their livelihood,” PRA said.

PRA also recommends the suspension of collection of interest on existing loans of retail businesses for a period of up to six months. 

In addition, the group said they   want shopping mall operators to charge rent as a percentage of sales, instead of the usual fixed rent per month, in an amount between three percent and 10 percent, for a period of up to six months.  

PRA also wants government to allow taxpayers to pay taxes due, especially income and value-added taxes, on an installment basis for up to one year and to delay the issuance by the Bureau of Internal Revenue of letters of authority for the 2018 to 2019 taxable years as well as for this year. 

The proposals are expected to help retailers to conserve their funds and focus on their business operations.

“The PRA hopes that its suggestions are adopted and would like to assure the government that it is one with the national effort to combat and alleviate the effects of the pandemic,” the group said. 

PRA president Rosemarie Ong said in a text message that while majority of its members have resumed operations as many parts of the country are now either under the less restrictive modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) or general community quarantine (GCQ), they are challenged in terms of mobility.

“It is costly for most retailers to provide transportation to its employees,” she said. 

Under the MECQ, public transportation is still not allowed to operate.

As such, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said businesses are encouraged to provide temporary accommodation or shuttles for their workers.

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