Romualdez assures stimulus package to ensure trade continuity, employment amid COVID-19 crisis

Martin Romualdez & Rodrigo Duterte
House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez said focus is on the formulation of a resilient stimulus package that would help President Rodrigo Duterte mitigate the economic effects of the deadly coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic.

HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez on Sunday vowed to work for the immediate consolidation of several proposals that would ensure a resilient stimulus package to help President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte mitigate the economic effects of the deadly coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Romualdez, House Defeat COVID-19 Committee (DCC) co-chairman, stressed that the "this unprecedented health crisis will slow down our economic growth this year."

Given this, Romualdez assured that the panel is focused on the formulation of an economic stimulus package to ensure business continuity and employment amid the COVID-19 crisis.

"We need to step up and identify all other programs and projects needed to fill the gaps in the implementation of the social amelioration program. We have to cast a wider net so that more families will benefit from other social programs that we have to implement," said Romualdez.

In a virtual meeting on Tuesday, the House DCC Technical Working Group (TWG) on the Economic Stimulus Package presided by Romualdez, approved the consolidation of proposals for the implementation of an urgent stimulus package to address the impact of the pandemic on the country’s economy.

The Sub-Committee on Economic Stimulus and Response Package, co-headed by Rep. Joey Salceda (2nd District, Albay), chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, Rep. Sharon Garin (Party-list, AAMBIS OWA) and Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo (2nd District, Marikina City) agreed to consolidate the proposals of House Members and resource persons into a bill to be submitted to its mother committee, the DCC.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, also DCC Chairman, explained that the TWG meeting is in line with efforts of the House to act expediently and partner with the Executive to address the pandemic. He further said the House and the Executive will focus on four (4) main areas: health, peace and order, social amelioration, and economic stimulus.

Garin gave an overview on the importance of formulating and implementing a practicable economic stimulus program to ensure the country’s recovery as soon as possible. Garin said the subcommittee is currently deliberating on two strategy measures namely the “National Stimulus Strategy” authored by Salceda and the “Economy Moving Forward As One” by  Quimbo.

She said there is a need for an economic stimulus for effects of COVID-19 after the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). Garin said that should there be an economic slowdown on post-ECQ, about 30 million daily wage earners and informal workers will be the most affected since they are the most vulnerable group.

“For the 30 million working Filipinos and one million business establishments affected by COVID 19, the two proposals are the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel,” Garin said.

Both measures are geared towards the protection of jobs and augmentation of business liquidity, she said.

“Let’s save livelihood. Let’s save jobs. Let’s save the economy. Let’s flatten the recession curve,” Garin said.

Quimbo, an economist, said under her proposal, the government shall provide assistance to businesses to help themselves during the post-COVID-19 situation. Businesses shall be offered with the following: (1) compensation for payroll costs during the ECQ; (2) capacity building to for business to recover, cope with the “new normal,” and enable them to better respond to future shocks in the economy; (3) zero interest loans to boost liquidity; and (4) “proportional assistance” or the rational scale of assistance.

“Ang COVID ay parang bagyo sa isang mangingisda. Nasira ang lambat at bangka so temporarily government had to break its cardinal rule of not giving fish to the fisherman. Government is now providing social amelioration through the Bayanihan Act, but government cannot do this for a long time. Kailangan tulungan ng gobyernong ayusin ang lambat at bangka. Yan ang aking panukalang batas: government fixes the boat, fixes the wheels of the economy, we ensure business continuity.

This way we protect the Filipino worker. Let’s flatten the curve, not the economy,” Quimbo said.

Salceda’s Philippine National Stimulus Strategy proposal contains several Programs for Structural Stimulus Phase which would entail a gross fiscal cost of P1.65 trillion for implementation from 2020 up to 2023.

He said these programs include Negative Interest Loan wherein the maximum loanable amount shall be 50% of the company’s direct labor costs.

The second program, according to Salceda, is the Credit Mediation and Refinancing Service to ensure that MSMEs are able to fulfill obligations under more favorable terms of credit.

The third program is the National Emergency Investment Corporation whose objective is to minimize permanent damage to the economy by bailing out firms which would go bankrupt because of current COVID-19 driven difficulties, said Salceda.

He said the fourth program is Enhanced Build, Build, Build Program or BBB+ which shall ensure prompt delivery of infrastructure projects.

The lawmaker emphasized that an integrated and consolidated version of the proposals of the House and Executive agencies, such as the Department of Finance, will give the government a springboard for further action.

Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr. and Committee on Appropriations Chairman Rep. Eric Yap (Party-list, ACT CIS) both assured the people that Congress is here to help them.

“We understand the problems, we are your representatives in the various districts. Congress is here to partner with the Executive branch to solve the problem arising from this pandemic. Not only do we want to save lives, but of course we want to save the economy,” Villafuerte said.

Yap said “I just want to assure the Filipino people na hindi po kami matutulog ni Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte at lahat ng aming mga kasama sa Kongreso sa paghahanap ng pondo na magagamit ng ating pamahalaan para masugpo ang COVID-19. Iwasan na po muna natin ang mga away sa pulitika, magkaisa at magsamasama tayo para matugunan natin ang problemang ito. May God Bless Us All."

Finance Sec. Carlos Dominuguez lll thanked the House leaders for their proposals, which can help the Executive branch to properly finance and implement the slated plans to expeditiously revive the country’s economy. “In the face of this challenge, we do not intend to succumb.

We fully intend to heal as one nation and prevail over the crisis,” said Dominguez.

He said the government has formulated a four-pillar economic strategy against COVID-19, which will require P1.45 billion for implementation.

This consists of (a) emergency support for vulnerable groups, (b) resources to fight the pandemic, (c) fiscal and monetary actions, and (d) an economic recovery plan.

In the same virtual meeting, Presidential Adviser on Flagship Programs and Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) president Vince Dizon briefed the House panel on strategies and the status of medical facilities that have been operational and being built immediately to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Dizon said the scaling up of quarantine facilities is part of the overall strategy to prevent the spread of Covid-19, decongest hospitals like those in Metro Manila, and develop facilities not only to save patients, but also to protect the frontliners.

In the National Capital Region, Dizon said there is a plan to build 12 mega facilities and expand these further to Region 3.

According to Dizon, the Ninoy Aquino facility is already operational.