PH secures $500-M loan from Japan for coronavirus response

The country has secured a $500-million loan facility from Japan to augment funds for government efforts to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, Malacañang announced on Wednesday.

The latest financial assistance was announced by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III during a meeting with President Duterte and other members of the government task force on coronavirus response Tuesday night, according to presidential spokesman Harry Roque.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

"Mayroon tayong bagong nakuhang loans na ni-report ni Secretary Dominguez. Ito ay isang 500 million dollar loan from Japan na ang interest ay 1/100 of 1 percent, halos libre (We obtained new loans that were reported by Secretary Dominguez. This is a $500 million loan from Japan with an interest of 1/100 of 1 percent, it's almost free)," Roque said in a television interview. 

"Sabi nga ni Secretary Dominguez, dapat siguro na personal na pasalamatan ng ating Pangulo si Prime Minister Abe (Secretary Dominguez suggested that President Duterte should probably personally thank Prime Minister Abe for this)," he added.

The Palace announced last week the government has so far raised $5.8 billion in financial support from foreign lenders to bankroll its efforts against the pandemic and strengthen the country's economic resilience. The foreign loans included those from Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank (WB), Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) of France.

Of the financing obtained from development partners, the Department of Finance recently said around US$2.26 billion has been disbursed for government programs.

Special session for Bayanihan II passage

According to Roque, the President is expected to ask Congress to convene a special session to facilitate the passage of the proposed Bayanihan II law. He added that the executive branch and the lawmakers have almost finished their "negotiations" for an acceptable stimulus package to jumpstart the country's battered economy.

The administration bill will include a proposed  P10 billion subsidy for expanded testing, P17 billion subsidy to support the public transportation sector, and P15-billion cash-for-work program that may be used for the hiring of 50,000 contact tracers.

"Dahil halos tapos na ang kanilang kasunduan, hindi na magtatagal ay hihingi na ng special session ang ehekutibo para maisabatas ang Bayanihan II package (Because they have nearly reached an agreement, it won't be long that the executive branch will ask for a special session to pass the Bayanihan II package)," Roque said.

Roque had earlier said a special session would be called once the amount of the proposed stimulus package is finalized. The President's economic team opposed the stimulus bill worth more than P1 trillion proposed by the House of Representatives since the government cannot afford it. Instead, the economic managers sought to limit the amount under P140 billion since it was all the government can fund.

Roque also previously said the proposed Bayanihan II will also likely cover the extension of the President's additional powers to respond to the pandemic, such as medical procurement.

Republic Act No. 11469, the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which was signed last March, expired last June 25. It gave the President additional authority to respond to the pandemic, such as granting emergency subsidy to low income families, realigning funds in the national budget, directing the operation of private establishments, and requiring businesses to prioritize contracts for materials and services necessary for the crisis.