Start budgeting, planning for local recovery, LGUs told

Romina Cabrera - The Philippine Star
Start budgeting, planning for local recovery, LGUs told
Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, DILG spokesman, said that with most parts of the country now classified as low-risk areas, local government units could begin recovery efforts to protect jobs and stimulate economic activity in their localities.
Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has ordered local chief executives to start planning and budgeting for a local recovery plan amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, DILG spokesman, said that with most parts of the country now classified as low-risk areas, local government units (LGUs) could begin recovery efforts to protect jobs and stimulate economic activity in their localities.

The DILG assured LGUs of help in preparing and recovering from the pandemic, as the country faces its worst recession in over 30 years.

“We need to recover now even when the COVID-19 crisis is not yet over because its effect on the economy and the livelihood of our countrymen will get worse. The DILG is collaborating with other national government agencies in the Interagency Task Force (IATF) to help LGUs prepare their recovery strategies and programs. The goal is to build back better,” Malaya said partly in Filipino in a statement yesterday.

Malacañang, meanwhile, urged Congress to approve the second phase of the Bayanihan Act and the bill providing tax perks to businesses to mitigate the economic impact of the crisis.

“We reiterate the President’s call to Congress to fast-track the passage of Bayanihan 2 or the Bayanihan to Recover As One, which would boost our second semester offensive against COVID-19; and the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises or CREATE Act to help businesses recover and generate employment for our people,” Roque said. “We assure everyone that the government will continue working round the clock to strengthen our resilience and bring us back to the path of inclusive growth.”

He reiterated that the Philippines is not the only country hit by the effects of COVID-19, noting that the pandemic has had an adverse economic impact on countries like Singapore, Indonesia, the US, France, Spain and Mexico.?Malaya pointed out that at least 10 fund source options could be tapped by agencies or LGUs for recovery plans, which include the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (LDRRMF), Local Government Support Fund-Financial Assistance to LGUs (LGSF-FA) and the 20 percent development fund.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said a robust stimulus package is the ventilator the economy needs, following reports that all economies of the world are in recession.

“We lost P1.4 trillion during the first half, about P10.8 billion daily from April to June alone. The economy is gasping in the ER and a more robust stimulus package is the ventilator that it needs,” he pointed out.

Recto said a comprehensive health response, especially testing, which in turn will rebuild confidence, is the main ingredient in the cocktail of cures.

“For example, fear of catching the virus is one reason for dampened consumption, which is three-fifths of the economic pie. We must flatten the curve to revive the flat-lining economy,” he added.

The senator stressed that all public transportation should not be totally grounded as he noted that the evaporation of safe commuting options contributed to the surge of the official unemployment rate to 17.7 percent which, in turn, plunged consumption.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the worse-than-expected pandemic-induced recession should be an eye-opener for the Inter-Agency Task Force and the country’s economic managers as he underscored the need to revive the demand side of the economy by restoring the people’s confidence in the ability of the government to handle the pandemic.

“Nobody expected it to be this severe. This is the result of the ‘shotgun’ approach in handling COVID-19. This shows the grim reality: people are hungry, jobless, no money and no more savings,” Drilon said.

He noted that the 16.5-percent decline in the country’s GDP is worse than what the government expected it to be, citing Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno’s projection of around 5.7 to 6.7 percent decline in the second quarter.

Drilon said this means the Philippines is now in recession following two consecutive declines in our gross domestic product. The GDP declined further to 16.5 percent in the second quarter, adding that “the government must take swift and decisive actions” within the remaining months of the year to help the poor and revive the demand side of the economy, noting how household consumption in Q2 declined by 15.5 percent.

“We need to do a second round of social amelioration program. We should expand it but we must retain those families who received the first tranche because they are the ones who are badly hit by the pandemic. There is no sense that they were included in the first tranche but were delisted in the second tranche. Their lives did not become better after receiving the first tranche. They are the ones who continue to experience hunger every day. The government should provide for them until the pandemic is over,” he underscored.

Drilon also sees the need to increase the stimulus fund under Bayanihan 2. The House of Representatives passed the measure on second reading yesterday containing a P162-billion stimulus fund.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the COVID-19 crisis has placed the government in a very precarious situation balancing between the health and economic issues, which presents a no-win situation.

“That is why it is revolting to discover so much unabated corruption in PhilHealth involving billions that could have been put to good use in adequately addressing at least the issue of health,” he said.

Sen. Sonny Angara also appealed to government officials not to waste people’s money on corruption.

For Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, the government should continue to provide poor families with the assistance they need, saying “it is important for the government to guarantee that there is food on the table for every Filipino family.”

He added that the government should expedite the distribution of the second tranche of the social amelioration program to 18 million low-income beneficiaries. – Alexis Romero, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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