By Genalyn Kabiling
The government is prepared to borrow funds and sell assets, including Mt. Apo in Davao, to extend assistance to people not covered by the emergency subsidy program, President Duterte announced late Monday.
By giving relief assistance to affected sectors, thePresident said he wanted to ensure no one will die from hunger as the country deals with the public health emergency triggered by the new coronavirus disease.
“We will start giving the aid to those who are not in the list,” the President said in his televised address late Monday.
“‘Yung mga tao na hindi nasali sa listahan. Gagastos tayo para sa Pilipino. I said we will borrow, we will sell. Pati — kung sinong gusto mag… ‘Yang Mt. Apo maganda ‘yan. Iyo na ‘yan, solohin mo (We will spend for the Filipino, those not included in te list. I said we will borrow, we will see even Mt. Apo. That’s beautiful. You can have it),” he added.
Duterte made clear that the sale of government assets would be the last resort if the country runs out of funds for the coronavirus response.
“Meron kang ano diyan (we have something) to save for the rainy day and when everything is almost gone and there is nowhere — a source that you can find, we can always start selling the properties,” he said.
He raised the possibility of placing Cultural Center of the Philippines and the lands along Manila Bay for sale.
“Now ‘yung kung sino ‘yung makabili ng Cultural Center, parang palasyo ‘yan. Pwede mong gawaing palasyo nandiyan ka sa trono then… Marami ‘yan. The whole of Dewey Boulevard, marami tayong lupa diyan. And its — itong — the peripheral lands around PICC pati ‘yung Cultural Center (If you can buy the Cultural Center, that’s like a palace. You can place your throne in the palace. We have lots of lands, the whole of Dewey Boulevard, the peripheral lands around PICC and Cultural Center),” he said.
Duterte said he expects the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to work together to implement the distribution of the relief aid to the affected sectors.
“I really do not want to see a single Filipino dying of — lalo na ‘yung mga bata (especially the children),” he said.
“So again at the risk of being redundant or repetitious again I would like to say that: Go out and seek the hungry before they die,” he said.
Earlier, the President bared that the government is studying the proposed P50.8 billion wage subsidy assistance program to assist 3.4 million workers in small businesses affected by the enhanced community quarantine. Under the proposed “Small Business Relief Program,” the government will provide a subsidy of P8,000 per eligible worker for two months.
The proposed wage subsidy program for MSME workers is included in the President’s third weekly report to Congress on the implementation of the Bayanihan law submitted Monday.
The government earlier started to implement the P200 billion emergency subsidy program for 18 million low income families. The two-month program involves the distribution of a subsidy ranging P5,000 to P8,000 to the target beneficiaries.
The middle class has been left out of the government’s social amelioration program for the poor families. Duterte later agreed with the mounting clamor to provide aid to the middle income families but asked his economic team to look for additional funds.
In the same televised public briefing, Finance Undersecretary Karl Chua briefly discussed the proposal to provide a wage subsidy to workers in small businesses.
The assistance will be coursed through the businesses identified the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Social Security System.
“Basically, we are going to help the middle class because one of the President’s speeches a few days ago, he said he wanted to help the middle class,” Chua said.