Palace: Cash aid for GCQ areas possible if Congress OKs more funding
This photo taken March 23, 2020 shows the House of Representatives in a special session to tackle proposed measures to grant President Rodrigo Duterte with additional powers to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
The STAR/Felicer Santos
Palace: Cash aid for GCQ areas possible if Congress OKs more funding
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - May 17, 2020 - 4:54pm

MANILA, Philippines — Households in areas where quarantine measures have been relaxed can receive aid if Congress passes a supplemental budget to fund the government's social amelioration program (SAP), Malacañang said Sunday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the existing budget for the SAP will not be enough to cover all areas that are under quarantine because of the coronavirus pandemic.  

He noted that the government had intended to distribute the second tranche of aid only to areas that are still under the strictest enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

"Because the P205-billion funding is limited and because we have given assistance to 23 million (households), not just 18 million for the first tranche, of course there won't be enough funds for the second tranche if we give aid to everyone," Roque told radio station dzBB in Filipino last Saturday.

"The question now is whether we have enough funds that can be realigned (for coronavirus response). If we have, then there is no problem. If we don't have enough funds and the leadership of the Senate, especially Senate President Tito Sotto, wants everyone to receive aid, then we need to pass a supplemental budget," he added.

Asked whether areas that are under the more lenient general community quarantine (GCQ) would be given subsidies once the government finds funding sources, Roque replied: "Yes. For now, only those in areas that are under ECQ or MECQ (modified enhanced community quarantine) are assured of aid."

"The message of the president is, in his heart, he wants everyone to be given aid. We will see if it can be done, if we can find (sources) of revenue," he added.

Economic managers have noted that the government could not have a supplemental budget if it has not identified sources of funds.

The government has placed Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon under ECQ last March to contain the coronavirus, which has so far infected more than 12,000 people nationwide. Under ECQ, public transportation is suspended and only essential sectors like those involved in food production and health services are allowed to operate. 

Shift to General Community Quarantine

The Duterte administration started easing quarantine restrictions this month, placing majority of the country's provinces and cities under GCQ to allow the economy to reopen graqdually. Under GCQ, selected businesses can resume operations and some forms of public transportation are permitted but at a reduced capacity.

Only the cities of Cebu and Mandaue in the Visayas remain under ECQ. Metro Manila, Laguna, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Zambales and Angeles City - which have been labeled as "transitioning high-risk areas" - have been placed under MECQ, a more lenient form of ECQ where restrictions on some industries, private transportation, and gatherings are eased. The government classifies areas according to their number of coronavirus cases and their capacity to provide critical health care.

Last Friday, Roque announced that President Rodrigo Duterte would seek a supplemental budget to bankroll the second tranche of the emergency aid program for sectors sidelined by the quarantine.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno had cited the need for a supplemental budget, saying it would allow the government to create jobs at a time when the economy is being battered by the pandemic.

Roque said the memorandum on the second tranche of the SAP is expected to be released "anytime now."

"We have to start in areas under ECQ. If we find funds for everyone, it (distribution of aid to GCQ areas) would follow," the Palace spokesman said.

ENHANCED COMMUNITY QUARANTINE GENERAL COMMUNITY QUARANTINE SOCIAL AMELIORATION PROGRAM
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