Palace wants a stimulus package that government can afford
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 wants a stimulus package that government can afford
Alexis Romero ( - June 17, 2020 - 7:29pm

MANILA, Philippines — A stimulus package designed to revive the pandemic-pummeled economy should be within the government's financial capability and should not require too much borrowing, Malacañang said Wednesday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the executive branch initially sought an extension of the special powers granted by the Bayanihan Act to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

He said the bills filed in Congress included plans to promote economic activity, including the implementation of stimulus packages.

"The position of (Finance) Secretary (Carlos) Dominguez is that it is better to have a very good credit rating so that we can borrow cheaply...we should not borrow too much to finance the stimulus package... The position of Secretary Dominguez is we should only offer (a) stimulus that we can afford; and right now, that’s a P140 billion," Roque told ABS-CBN News Channel. 

"Because the pending bill now talks about extension of emergency powers and the stimulus package, then Malacañang now wants something, a stimulus package that we can actually fund and that will not require too much borrowing," he added.

Roque said a lot of negotiations on the stimulus package are ongoing between the Senate and the House of Representatives.

"I was dragged into the negotiation rather unwillingly because I was telling them, 'I have too much work already'. But I think they were close to a compromise. That is all I can say," he added.

Roque said the proposed compromise may still involve the granting of special powers to President Rodrigo Duterte, noting that the government needs to provide additional equipment to areas with increasing cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

"Now we are looking at what happened to Cebu City, we are sending in ventilators, 50, the other day. Meaning, there may have to be purchases to be made, depending on what happens to the COVID-19 outlook," the Palace official said.

Earlier, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said the administration cannot seek a supplemental budget because the country does not have new revenue sources and excess tax collections. Finance officials have also said that the government lacks excess revenues to finance a P1.3-trillion stimulus package approved recently by the House of Representatives.

The limited revenues stemmed from the lockdown measures that forced thousands of businesses to close shop. Roque, however, insisted that the restriction was successful in slowing down the spread of the virus.

"I think we made the right moves because in terms of deaths, we’ve had in excess of a thousand. Compare it to the hundreds of thousands that have already died in places like the United States. So, I don’t think there is any regret about what we have implemented," Roque said.

"We have protected our people and we are hoping that in the near future, we will recover from the economic losses that we suffered because of a policy decision – to uphold the right to life," he added.

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