House deliberates steps to combat economic adversities amid COVID-19 crisis

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 14) – The House of Representatives tackled on Tuesday the steps needed to alleviate the economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis in the country.

In an online teleconference meeting of the House Defeat COVID-19 Committee Sub-committee on Economic Stimulus Package, Deputy Speaker Rep. Sharon Garin of AAMBIS-OWA Partylist emphasized the need to first help the workers and businesses affected by the pandemic.

Garin said there are almost 30 million workers and a million micro small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) who need to recover from their economic losses due to the island-wide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and other movement restrictions caused by the virus.

“The mandated Bayanihan to Heal as One Act is only good for three months. We need an economic stimulus in order to help Filipinos secure their sources of income and be able to feed their families,” said Garin.

Marikina second district Rep. Stella Quimbo presented her P370 billion economic stimulus package proposal to aid these workers and businesses most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Quimbo’s proposed economic stimulus package, titled as Economy Moving Forward as One bill, offers wage subsidies to MSMEs whose employees were laid off due to the ECQ.

She said the government can set aside around P140 billion for interest-free loans for MSMEs and P119 billion grants for the improvement of their operations.

“The purpose of these grants is to help businesses cope with the new normal after COVID-19 pandemic,” said Quimbo.

Quimbo stressed the factors of labor retention and business continuity as the driving forces towards bringing the country’s economy in a stable condition after the COVID-19 crisis.

“Temporarily, the government had to break its cardinal rule of not giving fish to the fishermen. But government cannot do this for a long time. The government fixes the boat and ensures business continuity. In this way, we protect the Filipino worker,” Quimbo added.

Albay second district Rep. Joey Salceda supported the need to have an economic stimulus response in this crisis, along with having a mass testing and the possible discovery of a vaccine for the disease that affected 5,223 individuals and claimed 335 lives in the country.

“Laws cannot resurrect the 300 lives lost due to COVID-19. But certainly, we have the instruments and will to bring the economy back to life for the comfort of everyone,” Salceda said.

Salceda estimated that the proposed total stimulus package will restore the Philippines’ economic growth into a positive trajectory by 2023. The projected national economic growth with stimulus is pegged at 5.3 percent, compared to four percent without a stimulus.

He also highlighted the importance of infrastructure in revitalizing the economy, suggesting the President be given special powers to expedite the Build, Build, Build projects of the government.

“This is to enable the spillover effects of fully operational infrastructure sooner,” added Salceda.

Salceda also proposed a credit management program to help MSMEs deal with their lenders and creditors in this time of crisis.

House Majority Floor Leader Rep. Martin Romualdez was impressed with the findings presented by Garin, Quimbo, and Salceda in order for the country to have sound economic strategies during and after the crisis.

“We are very happy. It is a good start. It shows that Congress still works even if we are on break,” the lawmaker from Leyte said.

The House of Representatives is expected to hold plenary debates for the economic stimulus package bill when they get back from their break on May 4.