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Solon proposes Covid-19 net packages for workers, families

LEGAZPI CITY --- House Ways and Means committee chairman Joey Sarte Salceda has crafted a comprehensive coronavirus response package to encourage families and businesses to comply with public health measures and to speed up economic recovery after the crisis.

“I am filing a carefully designed comprehensive coronavirus response package. This will be the Filipino Families First Act, which will prioritize keeping small and medium enterprises afloat and give relief to Filipino families,” Salceda said on Monday, Mar. 16.

“Mabigat po ang mga desisyon na ginawa ng ating Pangulo at ating gobyerno these past few days (The decision made by our President and our government is very hard). And much of the burden is on workers, families, and small businesses. It’s our commensurate responsibility in government to compensate these people for the things that we compel them to do,” he said.

Salceda said he is proposing a spending plan of P169.9 billion, with P85.5 billion surely recoverable. “So its P84.4 billion net cost spending,” he said.

The central feature of Salceda’s bill is negative interest loans. The first package worth P50 billion, would be provided to all companies regardless of size and industry sector, and the maximum loanable amount will be based on the number of employees of the company. Family-run small and medium enterprises will also be able to avail the loans. The loan will be conditional on retaining the employee for the duration of the crisis.

The second package of loans, worth P45 billion, will be for the tourism sector. The loan will allow the tourism sector to remain liquid and invest in productivity-enhancing and promotional strategies that would pay off once the health emergency abates. Like the first package, maximum loanable amount will depend on the number of employees of the borrower.

“The negative interest loans are safety net number 1. Pag may natanggal pa rin po na empleyado, pasok tayo sa safety net number 2 – P25 billion of unemployment assistance under ‘Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers’. So definitely po, covered yung mawawalan ng trabaho because of Covid-19,” he said.

Salceda’s plan will also cover those who cannot go to work due to the community quarantine by placing them temporarily under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).

“I want to make sure that we cover the wage earners who cannot earn income because of the quarantine. That’s safety net Number 3. Pag may lumusot pa rin, meron tayong nutritional assistance for senior citizens. That’s an additional P1,000 in their 4Ps for this emergency. They’re the most Covid-vulnerable sector, so we want their health supplemented,” he said.

“The goal is to cover as many people as we can afford. The impact of all of these spending measures will be a positive 1.82 percent of GDP, which will more than make up for the losses due to Covid,” he said.

For small businesses, Salceda is proposing supply chain subsidies to manufacturers of critical supplies who will continue to operate, and grants to local government units piloting programs to assist small businesses. Likewise, he is proposing that the corporate income tax cut for the first year of the Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Reform Act (CITIRA) be adjusted to two percent instead of one percent.

Salceda’s comprehensive plan also includes deferring housing rent payments by three months, deferment of payments for Credit Card, Salary-Based General-Purpose Consumption Loans (SBGPCL), and housing loans for one month. Financial institutions that will comply will be compensated with the foregone interest income.

“As much as possible po, we want people to invest their money on safety precautions, so we don’t want them to worry about rent and their loans while the crisis is ongoing. So we will essentially impose a deferment of rent,” he said.

Salceda also proposes that leeway be given for late filing of tax returns, and private insurers be required to cover testing.

Salceda’s office has become, in recent days, a think-tank for studying solutions to the present public health situation. The representative was also the first to suggest a shorter but more complete lockdown as early as a week before the community quarantine of National Capital Region was imposed.

“Hindi po kami tumitigil in informing the House leadership and the government about our data-driven insights on the situation,” the former Albay governor, who was awarded multiple times for emergency management, said. “And I will continue to be available to the press and at work for the House leadership in the weeks and months ahead.” (PNA)

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