Health or wealth amid the COVID-19 crisis? Finance exec says 'both'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 10) — Opening up the economy and containing the coronavirus are equally important in the midst of a pandemic, according to Finance Assistant Secretary Tony Lambino.

“It’s not a binary choice," he said in an online forum with the Department of Health on Friday.

"Kailangan po nating gawin pareho," he said. "Kailangan nating tulungan ang mga kababayan natin na makabalik sa trabaho at maghanapbuhay, to restart their livelihoods while protecting lives at the same time."

[Translation: We need to do both. We need to help our fellow Filipinos return to work and make a living, to restart their livelihoods while protecting lives at the same time.]

For more businesses to be allowed to reopen in order to jumpstart the economy, Lambino said both the establishments and the public need to follow minimum health standards, such as wearing of face mask in public, sanitizing their hands, and keeping a distance of 1-meter from one another.

“In terms of bouncing back, ano po ba ang kailangan natin? On one hand we need the behaviors, we also need the policies,” he said.

The finance official said the government is currently working on the recovery plans to help the business sector.

Aside from the “Bayanihan to Rise as One Act”, he said economic managers are working to help businesses under the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE) Bill.

With just a few session days left in the legislative calendar, the Department of Finance seeks swift passage of the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act. 

Lambino said this bill seeks to lower the corporate income tax for over 99.9 percent of the businesses nationwide. It also has a provision wherein a business can claim this year’s losses as a tax reduction in the future years.

“Sa batas natin ngayon, meron tayong three-year net operating loss carryover extension (NOLCO)," he said. "We want to extend that to five years."

The proposed measure also has provisions that will offer tax and non-tax incentives to attract foreign investors which can help provide additional job opportunities.

The National Economic and Development Authority estimated on May 28 that the COVID-19 crisis could cost the economy P2.2 trillion in losses.

The Department of Finance said 67% of the Philippine economy are in areas that experienced the most severe restrictions and lockdowns. The unemployment rate reached an all-time high at 17.7 percent in June, with the Philippine Statistics Authority reporting 7.3 million jobless adults in April.

The pandemic has also caused the permanent closure of at least 3,000 establishments nationwide.