Bayanihan 2 to boost LGU COVID-19 response––Cua

Isko Moreno & Honey Lacuna
ZARCAL SWORN INTO OFFICE — Photo shows new third district Councilor Timothy Oliver 'Tol' Zarcal after being sworn into office by Manila Mayor Isko Moreno with (left) Vice Mayor and Council Presiding Officer Honey Lacuna and Zarcal's father (right). Letlet Zarcal, who had been appointed as assistant secretary to the mayor, witnessed the event held in City Hall. (JERRY S. TAN)

UNION of Local Authorities of the Philippines National President and Quirino Governor Dax Cua thanked his former colleagues in Congress for the ratification of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2), and said that the measure would boost local government unit (LGU) response efforts to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cua, former Chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, singled out the two billion pesos in subsidies that will  partially cover the interest payments of the 50 billion-peso loan facility LGUs will be able to access to fund their initiatives to address the impact of the outbreak.

Bayanihan 2 provides one billion pesos each for the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines to subsidize the payment of interest on new and existing loans secured by LGUs from these government financial institutions.

ULAP had earlier urged Congress to allot five billion pesos for this purpose, but Cua said he and other LGU executives recognize that various other government programs needed funds as well.

"As a former member of Congress, I know that funds aren't unlimited, especially with government revenue generation hamstrung by the impact of the pandemic on the economy," said Cua.

Cua pointed out that "tax collections are down, which is why government had to again lower its 2020 tax collection goal to 1.74 trillion pesos from the 2.26 trillion-peso target the BIR set last March."

"Those of us in the LGUs and in the government will just have to work harder and do more with less."

Aside from the subsidies, Cua said that the Bayanihan 2 provision authorizing LGUs to realign funds for their respective COVID-19 response programs and to use the unutilized Municipal Development Fund (MDF) for pandemic response efforts would give LGUs more leeway to fund interventions to jumpstart local economies.

According to Cua, aside from containing the COVID-19 virus, LGUs "need to invest in their respective areas––in projects that will generate employment and economic activity."

The University of the Philippines alumnus added that LGUs should explore providing support for local agriculture and fisheries industries given the "untapped" potential of the sector.

"Department of Agriculture Secretary William Dar has called the agri-fisheries sector a sleeping giant, and I agree with his assessment. Malaki ang potensyal ng agri-fisheries sector, and we should not just depend on the national government in order to help this sector realize its potential," stressed Cua.

"Kailangan ng sektor ng tulong sa logistics at supply chain, sa storage, sa modernization, at iba pang bagay na makakatulong palakihin ang profit margins ng mga magsasaka at mangingisda natin. LGUs should use the funds available to make interventions like these––interventions that will matter in the short and medium term,” concluded Cua.