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P50 billion  in loans await affected businesses
Congress has allocated the amount under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2, which was approved by the bicameral conference committee and ratified by the Senate Thursday night.
STAR/ File

P50 billion in loans await affected businesses

Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - August 22, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The government will provide P50 billion in soft loans to businesses in specific sectors severely affected by the coronavirus disease pandemic.

Congress has allocated the amount under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2, which was approved by the bicameral conference committee and ratified by the Senate Thursday night.

The financial assistance to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and businesses in the transport, tourism and agriculture sectors will have the biggest share in the P165.5-billion stimulus program.

Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte, head of the House contingent to the bicam panel, explained that the funds for loans would be given to government financial institutions (GFIs), particularly the Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank), Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), Philippine Guarantee Corp. (PhilGuarantee) and Small Business Corp. (SBC).

“This will accelerate the rehabilitation and recovery of businesses and industries badly hit by months of
 lockdown implemented to combat this pandemic. We want to help them get back on their feet at the soonest,” Villafuerte stressed.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the measure authorizes the GFIs not to require collateral for loans not exceeding P3 million, and payable within three years.

Cayetano bared that P10 billion will go to SBC to strengthen its COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) program to ensure additional access to working capital for MSMEs, cooperatives, hospitals, tourism industry players, and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs); while P5 billion is for the credit guarantee program of the PhilGuarantee.

On the other hand, P18.47 billion will go to Landbank and P6 billion to DBP, the Speaker said.

Cayetano said another P15.52 billion has been included in the standby fund for Landbank and DBP to be made available once additional funds are generated from savings and unused amounts.

Villafuerte revealed that the final version of Bayanihan 2 bill, set for House ratification on Monday, has likewise allotted P24 billon for direct cash or loan interest rate subsidies to farm groups under the programs of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

The measure also earmarks P13 billion for cash-for-work programs and unemployment or involuntary separation assistance for displaced workers; and P9.5 billion for various programs of the Department of Transportation (DOTr), including aid for displaced public utility (PU) drivers and construction of protected bicycle lanes.

Bayanihan 2 likewise allots P13.5 billion for health-related responses, including the retroactive payment of the P100,000 hazard duty pay for health workers effective February 2020, continuous employment of existing emergency health workers, augmentation of operations of Department of Health (DOH) hospitals, and risk allowance of public and private health workers attending to COVID-19 patients; P3 billion for the procurement of face masks, face shields and personal protective equipment (PPE); and P4.5 billion for the construction of temporary medical isolation and quarantine facilities.

It sets aside P3.5 billion for the Local Government Support Fund (LGSF) to help LGUs beef up their anti-COVID efforts; and P1 billion each to LandBank and DBP to subsidize the interest payments on new and existing loans secured by local governments from GFIs.

Villafuerte said the measure would also allocate subsidies and allowances to qualified students in both private and public elementary and high schools and colleges whose families are in dire financial straits because of work stoppages resulting from the lockdowns; and one-time cash aid to displaced teaching and non-teaching personnel who have lost their jobs or who have not received their wages because of the crisis.

To hasten the country’s digital transformation and upgrade internet connectivity, he said the final bill calls for the temporary suspension of requirements to secure permits and clearances for the construction of telecommunications and internet infrastructure.

It also directs electric, water, telecommunications and other similar utilities to implement a minimum 30-day grace period for the payment of fees falling due within the enhanced community quarantine or modified ECQ (MECQ) without incurring interests, penalties and other charges, he said.

It excludes from gross income and exempts from tax the retirement benefits of officials and employees of private firms from June to December 2020, the House leader added.

“We are hoping the P165-billion outlay set in this consolidated version that will be ratified by both chambers of the Congress would just be an initial stimulus package, given the huge amount that we legislators in the House believe is needed to spell a strong and early recovery for the sectors reeling from the global economic crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic,” Villafuerte stressed.

Lastly, the House leader reiterated their call for the Palace to raise more resources in the months ahead to fund further stimulus packages needed for an early and strong economic rebound, particularly citing the House-approved proposals on the P1.5-trillion COVID-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus Act (CURES) and P1.3-trillion Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy Act (ARISE) that both require aggressive spending on measures to energize the economy and ease the pandemic’s impact on its worst-hit sectors.

IATF OK with PCCI

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) is amendable to allowing the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) join discussions on addressing impact of the COVID-19, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said yesterday.

“The Inter-Agency Task Force welcomes any group, organization, or individual, outside the members of the IATF, to join the discussion of any of its meetings,” Roque said.

Roque, who is also IATF spokesman, was reacting to PCCI’s request that the private sector be allowed to join decision-making deliberations on issues related to trade and commerce.

“Officials of PCCI can therefore serve as resource persons on matters related to trade, business and the economy in the same way that IATF has invited health experts from different medical associations to give their inputs related to their field of expertise,” he said.

But he expressed belief that the members of the President’s economic team – the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Finance,  Department of Budget and Management, and the National Economic and Development Authority – are competently sharing inputs as the government weighs the impact of quarantine rules on public health and the economy.

“(They) regularly join the task force meetings so the concerns of the business sector are forwarded and discussed,” he said.

“We are appealing for the inclusion of the private sector in the IATF. The IATF will be able to use the on-the-ground experience of the business sector to come up with a holistic approach that will make it easier for businesses to resume operation and for workers to return to work,” PCCI president Benedicto Yujuico said earlier in a statement. — Christina Mendez

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