₱1-B fund eyed to help restart SMEs after Luzon quarantine

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10


Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 1) — The Trade Department is preparing a ₱1-billion fund to help small businesses restart operations after the Luzon-wide quarantine is lifted, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said Wednesday.

Nograles, who serves as spokesperson of the Inter-Agency Task Force tackling the government's COVID-19 response, said the funds will be extended to micro, small and medium-scale enterprises or MSMEs under the Enterprise Rehabilitation Financing Program.

Nograles said the loan will help small firms restart or restock "to avoid foreclosure of business assets," adding that the program will start once the quarantine is lifted. The amount will be charged against DTI's Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso or P3 Program, which lets micro enterprises borrow anywhere between ₱5,000 up to ₱200,000 for a 1.5 percent interest rate per year and without other service fees — much cheaper than what is charged by banks and informal lenders.

President Rodrigo Duterte has restricted movement and business operations in the entire Luzon — including Metro Manila, the country's main financial hub — only allowing establishments offering critical services like healthcare, food preparation, banks, groceries, and media to report to work while the rest were told to stay at home to contain the spread of COVID-19. Malls and offices have been shut, with the state appealing for work-from-home arrangements and early salary and benefit payouts to support workers and families.

RELATED: COVID-19 to weigh down economic growth for the rest of 2020

Separately, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez identified special loans and livelihood assistance to micro firms. A one-month grace period for rental fees is also being considered, Lopez added on Wednesday, in line with provisions of the newly-signed Bayanihan to Heal as One Act that granted special powers to the Executive to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said Tuesday that the recovery package pledged for the private sector is in the works and would be rolled out before the scheduled lifting of the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon on April 13. Among the relief measures on the table are direct cash aid and tax breaks, with the perks being calibrated to keep these firms afloat.

​Meanwhile, direct monthly subsidies ranging from ₱5,000 to ₱8,000 are being readied for 18 million poor families most affected by the health crisis, the Department of Finance said. The money will be given for two months, but identification of households and the method of distribution are still being finalized.

LIST: Qualified beneficiaries of COVID-19 subsidy