P1.3-T stimulus bill ‘one big punch’ vs Covid-19

May 31, 2020

House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda said the P1.3-trillion Accelerated Recovery and Investment Stimulus for the Economy bill integrates all the proposed measures into “one big punch” to strengthen the fight against the 2019 coronavirus disease crisis and its perverse economic impacts on ordinary people.  

The measure, formerly called the Philippine Economic Stimulus Act, gained an unprecedented support from the lower house with 267 co-authors. Of the total amount, P586 billion is allotted for 2020, P10 billion of which will be for massive testing “to alleviate the ‘fear factor’ in the country, specially among the workers”, said Salceda.

“Without testing, workers will not go to work, consumers won’t go out and businesses won’t open,” he addedd. 

The ARISE was approved and endorsed by the Defeat Covid-19 ADHOC panel Tuesday last week for the plenary.

Salceda, who co-chairs the Economic Stimulus Package subcommittee of the Defeat Covid-19 panel, said the measure contains the “essential steps to jump-start the economy and help alleviate people’s anxiety through concrete actions that will ensure thriving economy and livelihood”.

The Albay lawmaker recently asked President Duterte for a special session in the event that the House of Representatives and the Senate are unable to pass urgent bills to combat the monster Covid-19 in a race against time.

“Let us all echo our cohesive and coherent call to flatten the curve, not the economy,” said the principal author of the ARISE bill, with Marikina City 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo.

The economic stimulus package also proposes to fund massive Covid-19 testing as well as provide wage subsidies and zero interest loans to micro, small, and medium enterprises. A total of P586 billion would be allotted for 2020, while P80 billion would be set aside in 2021.

Another P650 billion would be spaced out for three years starting 2021 to enhance the government's Build, Build, Build infrastructure program.

Some P20 billion of the entire package would finance mass testing from 2020 to 2021 at P10 billion each year, and the purchase of more test kits, the setting up additional testing centers, and strengthening contact-tracing efforts.

The measure also seeks to provide a P110-billion budget in wage subsidies under the Department of Labor and Employment and P30 billion for “cash for work” under the DoLE-Tulong Panghanapbuhay para sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers.

Some P15 billion is alloted for assistance of students affected by the pandemic, the lawmaker said.

In terms of businesses’ financial capability, Salceda said P50 billion is provided for loans for micro, small, and medium enterprises and P50 billion for zero-interest loans under the Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines.

Funds are also provided to assist “critically impacted sectors” such as MSMEs, tourism (P58 billion), industry and service sectors (P44 billion), transportation (P70 billion) and agriculture (P56 billion).

Salceda said a P25-billion budget for the National Development Corp. is also included in the proposal. For the year 2021, the bill proposes P25 billion for loans for MSMEs, among others.

He reiterated that he has his hopes up for our legislators to support the ARISE Bill to achieve the economic V-SHAPE Recovery done in 2008-2010.

“A vote for this proposed measure is a vote for new beginnings-- it is the right thing to do.” The Albay legislator  said.

The fiscal package would be sourced from off-budget accounts or government agencies' income from operations. This is allowed under RA 11469 also known as the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which gave Duterte special powers to address the pandemic.