By Emmie Abadilla and Alexandria Dennise San Juan
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) is pushing for the passage of the Philippine Economic Stimulus Act of 2020 (PESA) to provide immediate financial assistance to workers and businesses affected by the pandemic.
Under the proposed PESA bill, the government will earmark ₱1.3 trillion as a post-COVID-19 economic stimulus package. This includes a budget of ₱650 billion for an expanded infrastructure program for healthcare, education, and food security.
The country’s transportation sector will get an allocation of ₱70 billion.
The economic stimulus package will be of great help to stakeholders in the transportation sector, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said. “It will help them restructure existing loans and even avail of needed immediate assistance.”
“As we gradually reopen the country’s economy, those hardest hit by COVID-19, like our PUV drivers and operators, airline employees, maritime workers, and airline as well as shipping companies, must be given assistance to recover their income,” he said.
All forms of public mass transportation in areas declared under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and modified MECQ were suspended as part of measures to control the spread of COVID-19.
“The suspension of mass transportation led to the displacement of transport wage-earners, and financial loss for transportation companies during the enforcement of the strict quarantine measures,” Tugade said.
An economic stimulus package post-COVID-19 has been the subject of many consultations and hearings under the Committees on Economic Affairs under Chairperson Sharon Garin and Trade and Industry under Chairman Wes Gatchalian.
The proposed PESA bill is a consolidation of the proposals of Albay (2nd District) Rep. Joey Salceda and Marikina Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo.
The DOTr earlier submitted to Congress a proposal for a stimulus package that will cover the needed assistance in the recovery of the aviation sector in the form of wage subsidy for airline employees, augmentation of airline companies’ working capital, and provide for funds for the payment of fees and charges due to the different national airport authorities.
For the maritime sector, funds were requested to be allocated for incentives and subsidies to support the passenger shipping industry and their corresponding budgetary requirements.
This includes the provision of emergency lines of credit for operations funding; and for the provision for a relief on current loan obligations through a long-term credit facility with low interest and waiver of interest cost for six months.
The DOTr likewise proposed earlier the grant of assistance to the land transport sector as part of the economic stimulus package in the recovery amid COVID-19.
The agency seeks to assist the operation of PUVs, mitigate income loss of PUV drivers and operators, and the provision of fuel subsidy for PUV operators, which is equivalent to more or less 30 percent of their actual fuel consumption during the pre-ECQ period.
In addition, the proposed stimulus package also intends to provide transport operators with new loan facilities to cover expenses for fuel, manpower, garage lease and other operating and capital expenses.
This includes intervention for the restructuring of existing loans of bus operators with private banks for the modernization of their fleet during the duration of the general community quarantine (GCQ) period.