By Genalyn Kabiling
The government has taken “concrete, far-reaching” measures to address the coronavirus pandemic and mitigate its impact on the people, President Duterte said in his second weekly report to Congress.
The 22-page report the President submitted to the joint congressional oversight committee included details on government assistance to affected sectors including poor households, workers and farmers, and improvement in health facilities and resources, among others.
Under the Bayanihan law, the President is required to submit a weekly report to Congress about the specific implementations of the Bayanihan law that granted him powers to effectively deal with the coronavirus emergency.
“Two weeks after the enactment of Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, your government continues to optimize, within the limit of the Constitution and existing laws, the temporary emergency measures authorized by Congress to respond to and mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
“In the spirit of Bayanihan, to enable the country to heal as one, I respectfully report the concrete, far-reaching measures being undertaken, culled from the reports of 69 departments, agencies, and instrumentalities of the executive branch of government submitted to this office through the executive secretary,” he added.
In his report, the President said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has already received P100 billion out of the P200 billion requested for the two-month emergency subsidy program for low-income families.
As of April 2, the DSWD has released P16.3 billion to the accounts of 3.7 million beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps). A total of 190,217 food packs have also been distributed to beneficiaries.
Duterte said Land Bank of the Philippines has paid out P6 billion for 1.1 conditional cash transfer beneficiaries of the DSWD, while the payment of P2.6 billion to around 333,000 drivers under the Department of Transportation program will commence soon.
As of April 3, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has provided P441.9 million worth of subsidies to 88,388 workers from 6,923 establishments affected by the quarantine measures. Under the COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP), the government will give P5,000 cash assistance to workers displaced by the lockdown.
The labor department has also allocated P174.5 million for 55,934 displaced workers availing of aid from the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Displaced/Disadvantaged Workers (TUPAD)-Barangay ako Bahay Ko (BKBK) program. Around P294 million has been approved for the salary payment and purchase of protective gear and cleaning materials for the TUPAD program.
The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) has approved the benefit packages to cover the medical expenses of patients with coronavirus disease. The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office has also agreed to transfer P420 million to PhilHealth for COVID-19 related packages.
On consumer protection, the President said the national government has closely monitored the enforcement of urgent measures to fight price gouging while the country is under a state of calamity.
He said the Department of Trade and Industry has so far launched 544 campaigns against hoarding and profiteering that resulted in 64 arrests.
At least 96 persons have been arrested in 110 joint law enforcement operations for violations of various consumer, food, drug, price, and cybercrime laws.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government also reported the arrest of 594 people for hoarding, profiteering, and manipulation of prices of basic commodities.
The Department of Agriculture has implemented the Expanded Survival and Recovery Aid and Recovery Project that provides zero interest loans to farmers, fishermen, and micro and small enterprises. So far, the project has reached 113,570 farmer beneficiaries. A loan payment moratorium has been implemented to benefit 244,044 farmers and fishermen borrowers.
The agriculture department has also provided P5,000 cash grants to rice farmers
through the Land Bank cash cards.
To support households and small businesses, the trade department has launched the Livelihood Seeding Program-Negosyo Serbisyo sa Barangay Program, expanding the Negosyo Center services to serve barangays. The program includes packages amounting to P5,000 to P8,000 to qualified affected individuals and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to support their enterprises during the crisis. The program aims to benefit 3,592 barangays, 359,200 participants, and 17,960 MSMEs.
The government also authorized a 30-day grace period on the payment of commercial rents of MSMEs during the quarantine period with no interest penalties and other charges.
Land Bank has launched a P10-billion Help via Emergency Assistance for LGUs (HEAL) Lending Program for provincial, city, and municipal governments for emergency funding in the purchase of goods and procurement of services. The loans will have a fixed income rate of 5 percent per annum, payable for a maximum of five years, with one-year grace period on principal payment.
The President also said the budget department is expected to release the Bayanihan Grant to Cities and Municipalities, a funding program to support their COVID-19 measures and relief efforts. This will be equivalent to one month of the internal revenue allotment totaling P30.8 billion.
According to the President, the National Economic and Development Authority and the University of the Philippines Public Administration Foundation are creating a national supply chain plan for essential medical supplies, food commodities, and other critical materials during the state of public health emergency.
To facilitate the supply chain, the agriculture department has issued 41,689 food passes to delivery trucks and other vehicles transporting agri-fishery products and inputs. It also launched KADIWA ni Ani and Kita on Wheels to provide communities access to rice, fish, vegetables, and fruits.