By Hannah L. Torregoza
Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Wednesday urged the government to augment the budget allocated by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for its COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) program which is aimed at helping micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sotto said the P1-billion budget earmarked for the program is insufficient to assist MSMEs jumpstart their businesses following the economic downturn brought about by the coronavirus disease.
“Many small and medium companies are just starting to resume operations, with most if not all of them operating at 30 to 50 percent,” Sotto said in a statement.
“They suffered huge income losses when their businesses were shut down for more than two months. It is the responsibility of the government to help them recover from their meltdowns,” the Senate leader further noted.
The DTI’s CARES loan facility aims to help MSMEs by providing loans ranging from P10,000 to P200,000 for micro enterprises and up to P500,000 for small enterprises. It is channeled through the DTI’s financing arm. SB Corporation (SBC).
The loan program, which was launched in mid-May, was suspended barely a month after it opened, with SBC announcing that it has already breached the loan facility’s funding capacity of P1-billion.
Sotto said the application period was too short, and many MSMEs were still in the process of assessing their income losses and have yet to determine the amount of funding assistance they needed to restart their businesses.
“The one-month application period was too short for them to have availed of the government loan. The DTI should reopen the application period to allow more small and medium businesses to apply,” Sotto suggested.
He said the DTI should ask the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to infuse extra funds for the CARES program, which has a P1-billion loan allocation.
“Kulang po ang P1-billion para matulungan ng pamahalaan ang mga MSMEs na nalugi noong panahong tayo ay nasa ilalim ng (The P1-billion allocation is insufficient for the government to be able to help our MSMEs who were affected during the (enhanced community quarantine),” he pointed out.
“Mahalagang madagdagan ang pondo ng programa nang sa ganun ay mas marami pang maliliit na businesses ang makapag sumite ng kanilang (It’s necessary to infuse more funds to the program so more MSMEs can file their respective) loan applications,” he said.
The Senate chief said the DBM can tap the Executive’s COVID emergency response budget for the needed funds.
“Nananawagan po tayo sa DBM na dagdagan ng karampatang pondo ang CARES program nang sa gayun ay mabuksan muli ang application period (We are calling on the DBM to augment the funds for the CARES program so that the application period can resume),” he said.
“Sa ganitong panahon ng krisis, mahalagang maipakita ng pamahalaan ang kanilang tunay na pagkalinga sa ating maliliit na mga businesses, (During these times of crisis, it’s important for the government to show they truly care even for our small businesses,” Sotto said.