Drilon grills DTI chief for 'glossing over' economic problems

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 28) — A Senate finance subcommittee on Tuesday deferred the approval of the Department of Trade and Industry's proposed 2022 budget as Minority Leader Franklin Drilon dismissed the presentation made by DTI Secretary Mon Lopez as unrealistic.

Lopez gave updates on the agency's achievements as he defended their proposed ₱24.69 billion budget for next year.

He said there are now around two million Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) - up from the 1.7 million registered businesses in 2020 and 1.5 million in 2019.

The Trade chief explained that while 4% or 76,000 MSMEs were forced to shut down, more businesses have opened. Lopez, however, could not give an exact number of jobs lost, much to Drilon's dismay.

"The way you presented it; we have no problems. The first thing that we should do in order to solve our problem is to recognize our problem," Drilon said.

"I would like to hear the real score on the ground because if you keep on insisting na wala tayong problema, e, bakit natin kailangan ng budget (that we do not have a problem, then why is this budget needed)," the veteran lawmaker added.

Lopez responded, "Your honor, hindi ko po sinasabing wala tayong problema (I'm not saying there's no problem)."

"In fact, sa marami ring interview, pag tinatanong yung impact ng ECQ, MECQ, we cite problems also na may mga nagko-close, may mga nawalan ng trabaho, yung estimated jobs that were lost, it's about this 300,000 to 500,000... The problem lang po is the numbers can be bigger if we count the informal sector," he added.

[Translation: In fact, in many of our interviews, when we're asked about the impact of ECQ, MECQ, we cite problems also that businesses are closing down, workers are displaced, and the estimated jobs that were lost is about 300,000 to 500,000. The only problem is the numbers can be bigger if we count the informal sector.]

Drilon then quizzed Lopez on MSMEs in the exports industry that have taken a hit or ceased operations, as well as the number of job losses in that sector. Lopez gave data on the positive and negative growth rates of various exports, but Drilon was not satisfied.

"It's quite obvious to me Mr. Secretary - I'm sorry to say this, but apparently you are not prepared to make this kind of - you are not prepared in so far as this data is concerned to give us a real picture of our economy and I must express my disappointment because you seem to gloss over the problems that our economy faces today," Drilon said.

Drilon requested another hearing, saying senators need a "more realistic picture" to determine the budget needed by DTI.

Senate Finance Committee chairman Sonny Angara agreed. He said he will send DTI a list of questions raised by Drilon so it can submit the data ahead of the next hearing.