2 lawmakers eye more than ₱1 trillion for COVID-19 economic stimulus package

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 23) — Two lawmakers are preparing an economic stimulus package worth more than ₱1 trillion to help the country recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Marikina City Rep. Stella Quimbo, are fine-tuning the proposed Philippine Economic Recovery Act following online hearings with economic managers, government officials and lawmakers during the enhanced community quarantine.

The bill seeks to help businesses and workers affected by the pandemic through subsidies, loans and regulatory relief for certain enterprises, among others.

Salceda, who shared the latest draft of the bill to the media on Thursday, said the economic stimulus package could be around ₱1.3 trillion to ₱1.4 trillion. No specific amount, however, was indicated in the proposed law.

Among the key provisions of the draft bill include the construction of more hospitals, public schools and agri-fishery infrastructure over the next three years. A ₱650-billion budget is proposed for the so-called “Enhanced Build, Build, Build Program.”

The measure also seeks to allow the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines to offer interest-free loans to micro, small and medium enterprises, subject to certain guidelines. A budget of ₱200 billion is proposed for its implementation.

The draft bill also proposes the expansion of the Small Business Corporation’s existing loan programs for MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) through any of the following: increasing the availability of loanable funds, reducing eligibility requirements, increasing the maximum loan amounts per borrower, and reducing interest rates and extending loan terms.

MSMEs will also receive assistance in the form of grants from the Department of Trade and Industry, as well as regulatory relief from the Bureau of Internal Revenue in the form of waived registration fees for a maximum of 18 months.

The draft bill also proposes the grant of wage subsidies to businesses hurting from the COVID-19 crisis so they can continue paying their employees for two months.

The Department of Labor and Employment will also be required to provide wage amelioration to freelancers and self-employed workers, as well as unemployment benefits to displaced overseas Filipino workers for the same period.

A budget of ₱110 billion is proposed for the wage subsidies for businesses and workers affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

The passage of an economic stimulus package for COVID-19 is expected to be one of the House of Representatives’ priorities when sessions resume on May 4.