By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Imelda “Imee” Marcos on Sunday vowed to push for a larger appropriation in the government’s fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) when Congress convenes for a Special Session Monday, March 22.
Marcos, who chairs the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, said she will propose a P750-billion “all heart, all out” emergency package that could provide immediate and sustained protection of health workers, provision of food and cash aid for marginalized communities and stimulus packages to offer to industries badly hit due to the enhanced community quarantine.
The Senate and House of Representatives is set to hold a special session Monday, March 23, to pass a bill that would allow President Duterte to realign available state funds to be used to address the COVID-19 threat and its impact on the country’s economy.
State economic managers, according to Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, are projecting a P200-billion allotment for a two-month period, which will cover food and cash assistance for the 16.5-million affected families and workers nationwide.
However, Marcos said the P200-billion amount projected by the government’s economic managers is too measly, saying public panic may ensure in the coming months if only that amount is approved.
“Ilokana man ako, hindi ito ang tamang panahon para mag-kuripot ang gobyerno. Itodo na ang tulong kung talagang tutulong para sa proteksyon ng mga health workers, pagkain sa mahihirap, at susteno sa mga nawalan ng trabaho, (I maybe an Ilocana, but I agree this is not the time for the government to be stingy. Let’s be all out, if we are going to help and protect our health workers, provide food for the poor, and sustain those who lost their jobs),” Marcos said.
Marcos said she will pitch for her proposed emergency package when members of the Senate meet up on Monday, calling her proposal “PagAsa: Alaga, Sustento at Pag-Angat.”
The senator said the first P300-billion of the Pag-ASA emergency package can be sourced from left over funds from the 2019 budget; the calamity funds in the 2020 budget; intelligence and social funds of the Office of the President; PhilHealth’s emergency reserve fund and contingency funds from the Departments of Education (DepEd), Agriculture (DA), Labor and Employment (DOLE), Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
The government can also take advantage of the recent upgrades in its investment ratings and the prevailing low interest rates of close to zero percent to borrow funds of up to P440-billion.
The amount, she said, is still within a manageable debt cap of 5.4 percent from the present 3.2 percent.
Marcos warned local government units (LGUs) are likely to run out of funds in the next two weeks.
In such case, she said, LGUs should be able to download funds directly from the national government, in accordance with Section 87 of the General Appropriations Act (GAA).