Imee: More cash aid funds to prevent unrest

Imee Marcos
Senator Imee Marcos

SENATOR Imee Marcos on Wednesday stressed that the government must immediately identify more sources of funding for cash aid to the poor to prevent social unrest, if there is still need to extend the implementation of lockdown beyond April 30.

Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on economic affairs, estimates that at least P550 billion can still be added to the P200-billion emergency budget now being used for cash aid.

The Department of Finance (DOF) must move quickly to avail of loans and take advantage of a window of opportunity that is gradually closing, Marcos said, citing that the global COVID-19 crisis could last months longer, pull down the country’s investment risk ratings, and affect bank interest rates on loans.

“Hindi economic target ang dapat natin sagipin ngayon kundi buhay ng tao. Bakit kasi nagkukuripot ang DOF kung marami naman ang pwedeng pagkunan ng pondo?” Marcos said.

Marcos repeated her call made last month that the DOF can borrow about P440 billion, an amount that would still be within a “manageable debt ceiling of 5.4%,” from the present 3.2-percent level being maintained by the government.

Additional funds can also be sourced from unused savings from the 2019 national budget, calamity and contingency funds of government departments and agencies like the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, PhilHealth, and the Office of the President.

Reported cases of COVID-19 infection are expected to rise in April, as the Department of Health begins to expand its capacity to conduct tests on a larger scale and plot the progress of the pandemic, Marcos said.

“Ngayong Abril pa lang natin malalaman kung ano ang totoong sitwasyon, lalo na ang mga kasong hindi naitala dahil sa dating kakulangan ng mga test kit. Hindi imposible na aabot ng May or June ang lockdown para sa kapakanan ng lahat,” Marcos said.