The government should exhaust all means to assist small businesses that have been affected by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to prevent further job losses, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said on Saturday, May 1.
Gatchalian issued the appeal as the country observes Labor Day, remembering workers who have been laid off from their jobs and those who have been receiving lesser wages due to reduced work hours following the virus outbreak.
“But we can also look at this year’s Labor Day celebration as most relevant as efforts are all geared towards saving businesses and revival of the country’s economy,” Gatchalian said.
In a radio interview, the senator stressed the need for the government to focus on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) as many of them and their workers have been affected by the pandemic.
“Naniniwala ako na ang ekonomiya natin ay babangon muli pero dapat nakaalalay ang gobyerno. Dahil kung hindi siya nakaalalay wala silang pagbangon at mabagal ang kanilang pagbangon (I believe that our economy will again recover but the government should be helping these businesses. Because if the government does not help, it will be difficult for them to recover),” he told DWIZ, noting that MSMEs account for over 60 percent of the country’s labor force.
“Kailangang paghandaan at pag-aralan nating mabuti ang mga programang ihahain sa mga nawalan ng trabaho. Kung bibigyan sila ng ayuda, mas mabuting hindi lang pantawid sa pangkasalukuyang pangangailangan kundi trabahong masasandalan nila ng pangmatagalan, may pandemya man o wala (We should prepare and carefully study the programs that we would offer to those who lost their jobs. If they will be given aid, it’s better to have one that would not only provide them temporarily relief, but also jobs that they could depend on, with or without a pandemic),” he also said in his statement.
In a report released last March 30 by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), unemployment rate went up from 8.7 percent last January to 8.8 percent in February this year. This translates to 4.2 million jobless Filipinos.
The Philippines also saw a record-high unemployment rate of 10.3 percent in 2020 — its highest unemployment rate in 15 years.
For his part, Gatchalian said he will push the passage of the proposed Government Financial Institution Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economy Recovery (GUIDE) law.
The bill proposes to rediscount loans and other credit accommodations to MSMEs. It also seeks to streamline loan applications to ensure the speedy processing of loans for MSMEs.
The vice chairman of the Senate banks committee said the bill would be discussed once sessions resume on May 17. He hopes that it will be prioritized in the Upper Chamber.