PH eyes $1 billion in loans to triple war chest vs. COVID-19

By: Ben O. de Vera - Philippine Daily Inquirer | March 17,2020 - 04:03 PM

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III. (File Photo by TOTO LOZANO / Presidential Photographers Division)

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is seeking $1 billion (over P51 billion) in loans which would nearly triple its war chest in the fight against COVID-19, including the P27.1-billion package unveiled by President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic team.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said Tuesday that “negotiations for $1-billion loans for combating COVID-19 were still in process,” but he declined to say with which lenders.

“Will let you know when successfully concluded,” Dominguez said.

The Philippines already secured a $3-million grant from the Manila-based multilateral lender Asian Development Bank (ADB), which will be spent to buy additional medical emergency supplies.

In a text message Tuesday, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said it was “too early” to determine the impact on the Philippine economy of the Luzon-wide “enhanced” community quarantine.

Last week, Pernia said the earlier announced community quarantine covering Metro Manila would only have an “ephemeral hit on the economy, at most.”

Separately, Budget Secretary Wendel E. Avisado said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) formed skeletal workforces “to maintain the unimpeded delivery of services to the public” during the one-month quarantine.

“Releases of allotments and cash allocations shall be facilitated to cover the requirements of the government,” Avisado said.

“The DBM will ensure the continued release of funds for the requirements of the government, especially for the Department of Health (DOH) to address the COVID-19 situation and other urgent health concerns, funds for our infrastructure projects under the ‘Build, Build, Build’ program, and funds for the peace and order requirements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), among others,” Avisado added.

On Monday night, the economic team said the P27.1-billion package was aimed at not only beefing up the DOH’s defenses against COVID-19 but also providing relief and recovery to infected Filipinos as well as domestic industries hurting from the disease’s economic fallout.

“As directed by President Duterte, the government will provide targeted and direct programs to guarantee that benefits will go to our workers and other affected sectors. We have enough but limited resources, so our job is to make sure that we have sufficient funds for programs mitigating the adverse effects of COVID-19 on our economy,” Dominguez said in a statement.

This initial package was on the assumption that “the contagion will end shortly after midyear,” Dominguez explained.

Over half of this fiscal support package will go to Department of Tourism (DOT)-led programs and projects, with the money to be sourced from the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza).

“So far, the hardest hit sector is tourism, and Tieza will spend P14 billion to prepare it for a rebound,” Dominguez explained.

Moving forward, Dominguez said “other measures will be considered together with the private sector as the effects of the contagion become evident.”

Edited by JPV

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TAGS: $1 billion in loans, eyes, ph, triple war chest vs. COVID-19

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