By Chino Leyco
The national government has to be prudent in its spending while ensuring all citizens and business sectors are weathering the coronavirus storm that is now wreaking havoc on the global economy, the Duterte administration’s chief economic manager said on Tuesday.
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said that it remains uncertain when the Philippines will get through the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis, admitting that government funds also have limitations.
“We must realize, however, that we do not know how long this contagion will last and that our funds are not inexhaustible. We must therefore prudently marshal our resources and prepare for all eventualities,” Dominguez said.
But despite the long-term limits, Dominguez said the government is currently fighting the COVID-19 in a position of financial strength, citing that tax reforms and “very judicious” spending have improved the country’s revenue flows.
“The President’s fiscal policies since the start of his administration, of vastly improving our revenue flows as well as being very judicious with expenditures and investments, have placed us in a good position to meet the financial challenge posed by COVID-19,” he said.
Dominguez said the administration is realigning the 2020 national budget, as well as the funds coming from government owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), to meet the primary needs in containing the COVID-19.
Among of the government priorities are the distribution of the P205 billion budget earmarked to help the informal sectors in the next two-months and to fully fund the needs of the healthcare sector.
He also said that the national government is reallocating funds for assistance to local governments units (LGUs) as well as micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
The finance chief added that they are also setting aside a budget for the Department of Agriculture and Department of Trade and Industry to help enhance food production and availability in the country.
For infrastructure, Dominguez said that the government is aiming to maintain its “Build, Build, Build” initiative to help the local economy recover quickly upon the defeat of the virus.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and other agencies have also implemented their measures to alleviate the financial constraints of the public during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), Dominguez said.
Among these are the moratorium on payment of loan and credit card amortizations, and the prohibition of charging compounded interest and penalties during the period of contagion.
“In addition, the Monetary Board had provided liquidity for the economy and lowered interest rates. These measures favor all sectors of society, especially those some people call middle class,” Dominguez said.