Migrant workers Duterte’s priority

PRESIDENT  Duterte has committed to help overseas Filipino workers, particularly those who were displaced from their jobs due to COVID-19 pandemic, by providing livelihood assistance including low-interest loans.

He also asked the Land Bank of the Philippines and other government financial institutions to provide low-interest loans to OFWs.

As one of the government’s immediate responses to OFWs, the Department of Labor and Employment  earlier extended $200 or P10,000 one-time cash assistance to OFWs under its Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong, or AKAP Program.

Nearly 215,000 OFWs were assisted under this program.

Remittances from overseas Filipinos have been one of the top dollar earners for the Philippines, supporting the country’s economic growth.

However, hundreds of thousands of OFWs were repatriated due to the pandemic.

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An additional budget of P5 billion is being eyed to continue the zero-interest loan program for micro, small, and medium enterprises.

The amount “would be good enough for now” to augment the fund for COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises or CARES program, according to the Trade Department.

The DTI rolled out the CARES program through its financing arm, Small Business Corp., to provide interest-free loans for existing MSMEs whose businesses were affected amid the coronavirus disease 2019  pandemic and temporary closure of establishments as part of the community quarantine measures.

The program only collects 6-percent service charge with payment period of up to 24 months plus six months grace period.

To date, total loan applications amounted to P3.5 billion. However, the DTI only earmarked P1 billion for the CARES program.

SB Corp. has stopped receiving new applications but still processing pending applications. They  are now allocating our P3 fund for CARES program.

The P3 program, or the Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso, is also a microfinancing program of SB Corp. launched in 2017. It aims to provide better access to finances for Filipinos to start their own businesses as well as for them to avoid loan sharks like the ‘5-6’ lending scheme that charges huge interest rates.

Meanwhile, Duterte asked lessors of commercial spaces to come up with amenable arrangements with their tenants.

Lopez has cited ways to give rental discounts to MSME lessees amid the pandemic. Landlords may adopt the arrangement implemented by a big mall operator for their lessees, which is waiving the fixed rental fee and only getting a percentage of the lessee’s sales as rental payment.

For instance, the arrangement before the pandemic was that lessors charged a tenant for commercial space rental at a fixed rate of P100,000 plus 8 percent of the tenant’s sales.

Now that businesses are struggling to survive amid the pandemic, lessors no longer collect the P100,000 fixed rental fee while reducing the 8-percent share in sales to 5 percent.

Helping MSMEs to thrive amid the pandemic is the key to revive the economy.

During his fifth State-of-the-Nation Address, Duterte urged lessors of commercial spaces not to drive away their MSME tenants as they struggle to survive amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

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