The House minority bloc on Wednesday said the “wounded” Philippine economy could be in dire need of a “surgery” to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
At a news conference, House economic cluster co-chairman and Marikina Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo said passage of the proposed P1.3-trillion Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy of the Philippines (ARISE) is the surgery needed by the economy.
“Right now, surgery is needed for the economic wound; Bayanihan 1 is our first aid, Bayanihan 2 is the emergency room, but they are not enough to revive the economy. We need the Bayanihan 3, may the ARISE bill arise as Bayanihan 3,” Quimbo, an economist, said.
“Our economy contracted by 16.5 percent in the second quarter—the largest contraction in a single quarter ever recorded. We are officially in a recession. We need a proportionate response if we are to bounce back by 2021. If there is a lack of government support, many more will lose their jobs, and many more businesses will close,” Quimbo added.
According to the lawmaker, the economic managers now estimate that the economy will contract by 5.5 percent overall in 2020.
“This means we stand to lose P2.4 trillion in output. To avert that loss, we need a stimulus of P1.5 trillion. But unless we put a handle on our Covid situation, we will have to keep adjusting the amount needed for economic stimulus. We need a clearer virus prevention plan. Countries that have been able to control the spread of the virus are also those that have been able to begin the journey towards economic recovery,” she added.
With this, Quimbo, also one of the principal authors of the ARISE bill, appealed to economic managers of the Duterte administration to support the ARISE bill as Bayanihan Part 3.
“Under ARISE, we have a comprehensive plan to address the economic crisis. ARISE proposes P1.3 trillion over three years. Special attention is given to our small businesses who are most in need of resources in order to stay afloat, with P60 billion allocated for MSME [micro, small and medium enterprises] loans and assistance under DTI [Department of Trade and Industry] and SBC [Small Business Corp.],” she added.
“Our second quarter GDP [gross domestic product] data only confirmed that our tourism, transport, and manufacturing-exporting sectors are among those that have taken the biggest hit thus far. That’s why ARISE provides for sector-specific assistance for these businesses, along with assistance for agriculture, to improve our food security,” she added.
The lawmaker said the House-approved ARISE bill has been the subject of extensive consultations with the private sector, regulators, and academe and further validated with data.
“At this point, Congress has done the hard work—the Executive need not look far to find a suitable plan of action,” she said.
“Still, many provisions of ARISE were incorporated in [P162 billion] Bayanihan 2 meaning there is support from the economic managers. Hopefully, they will be more open to determining what in the ARISE bill they agree with,” she added.
For his part, Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante Jr. said the proposed P162-billion Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, or Bayanihan 2, to address the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic to the country is not enough to fund both Covid-19 response, as well as the country’s economic recovery efforts.
“Our GDP has contracted by 16.5 percent and we are in our first recession in three decades. It is clear that our economy needs a significant shot in the arm…,” he said.
“This is why we reiterate the need for ARISE, which the House passed two months ago. This is a measure that has the support of more than 40 local and foreign business groups, including the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines,” he added.
The minority leader urged the executive to revisit and support the proposal because ARISE seeks to keep workers employed.
“Why is this stimulus package so critical? To quote the minority’s resident economist, Rep. Stella Quimbo, we need one ‘to protect workers against layoffs and we do that by reviving business confidence and removing the fear factor and making sure that businesses continue,” said Abante.