SENATOR Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go reiterated his appeal to provide additional support for the middle class, particularly micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and their employees affected by the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. Go said that most MSMEs were forced to temporarily, totally or partially close down due to the global health crisis and the extended enhanced community quarantine measures.
“Malaking parte ng bumubuhay sa ating ekonomiya ay ang mga MSMEs. Tulungan natin silang buhayin ang kanilang negosyo at maiahon ang kanilang mga empleyado habang nasa panahon ng krisis ang buong bansa,” Go said.
He further explained that he has seen MSMEs struggle in keeping their businesses operational considering the adverse socio-economic impact of COVID-19. “Mahirap kumita ngayon. Maraming napilitang magsara kaya hindi nila matustusan ang mga sweldo ng kanilang mga empleyado.”
The Senator, who also sits as a member of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee overseeing the implementation of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, lauded the efforts of some MSMEs who have adopted online business transactions in order to ensure availability of basic necessities, such as food in the market and, at the same time, keep their businesses afloat to take care of their employees.
“Marami pong negosyo na nag-adopt ng skeletal workforce at nag-implement ng tamang social distancing measures para patuloy na makapagserbisyo. Bagamat nananatiling bukas ang iba, hindi pa rin ito sapat para maalagaan lahat ng empleyado. Lugi na ang negosyo, kawawa pa ang empleyadong walang sweldo,” he explained.
Based on Go’s discussions with Department of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, the latter said that the government is now preparing a subsidy program to provide assistance to MSMEs and their employees which is set to be rolled out in the coming weeks. This program will provide subsidies for about four million MSME employees.
This is after President Rodrigo Duterte recently said that the DOF must do what it can to ensure that there will be available funds for other affected Filipino families, as most of the already allocated budget are for programs prioritizing the most vulnerable sectors or the “poorest of the poor.”
“Ang prayoridad natin ngayon ay mabigyan ng ayuda ang pinaka-mahihirap. Kung mayroon mang hindi maisama sa 18M families para sa emergency cash subsidy, mayroon ring ibang mga programa ang gobyerno na makakatulong sa iba pang mga apektadong mamamayan,” Go said.
“Huwag natin pabayaan ang iba pang mga apektadong Pilipino na nangangailangan rin ng tulong,” Go added as he urged the DOF and other concerned agencies to immediately implement measures that would also help them overcome this predicament.
To avoid duplication and to ensure that more Filipinos benefit from various government programs, Go said that the beneficiaries of the subsidy program for MSME employees must be different from the eighteen million families being assisted by programs under the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
DOF also clarified that they will only implement such assistance once the DOLE, through its COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP), has finished its assistance programs to avoid duplication. For affected workers in the formal sector, the DOLE’s CAMP provides qualified beneficiaries a one-time financial assistance of P5,000 and employment facilitation services.
The DOF will get the list of qualified beneficiaries for the subsidy program from the Bureau of Internal Revenue. They will be paid directly through the Social Security System and the amount of assistance may range from P5,000 to P8,000 depending on the region.
The DOF has already exerted efforts to help the middle class by imposing a moratorium on payments of loan amortization, disallowance of compounded interest and penalties, as well as exemption from Documentary Stamp Tax.
Moreover, Republic Act No. 11469 or the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” directs all public and private banks and other financial institutions, including the Government Service Insurance System, Social Security System and Pag-ibig Fund, to implement a minimum 30-day grace period for the payment of all loans including salary, personal housing, motor vehicle loans, and credit card payments, which fall due within the period of the ECQ, now extended until April 30 in Luzon.
“Importante ang ‘palugit’ na ito para mapagaan ang pinapasan ng taumbayan. Kung gusto nating mas mabilis manumbalik ang sigla ng ating ekonomiya, mas mainam na ngayon pa lang ay tulungan na natin ang maliliit na negosyante na makabangon,” Go said.
“Sisiguraduhin natin na walang maiiwan na Pilipino. Lahat ng apektado ay matutulungan natin lalo na sa health crisis na nangyayari sa bansa ngayon,” the Senator added.
According to data collected in 2018 by the Department of Trade and Industry, over 998,342 businesses are MSMEs and make up 99.52% of the total enterprises operating in the country.