MANILA, Philippines — Senator Imee Marcos prodded the government to immediately identify more sources of funding for cash aid to poor families to prepare for a possible extension of the Luzon-wide lockdown beyond April 30.
“Hindi economic target ang dapat natin sagipin ngayon kundi buhay ng tao. Bakit kasi nagkukuripot ang DOF kung marami naman ang pwedeng pagkunan ng pondo?” Marcos said in a statement on Wednesday.
(It’s not the economic target that we should prioritize on saving right now but the people’s lives. Why is it that the DOF seems to be penny-pinching when there is a lot of sources for funds).
She said reported COVID-19 cases in the country could rise in April with the Department of Health (DOH) beginning to expand its capacity to conduct tests on a larger scale.
“Ngayong Abril pa lang natin malalaman kung ano ang totoong sitwasyon, lalo na ang mga kasong hindi naitala dahil sa dating kakulangan ng mga test kit,” Marcos said.
(We would only know the real situation this April, especially on cases that were not reported due to the lack of testing kits).
“Hindi imposible na aabot ng May or June ang lockdown para sa kapakanan ng lahat,” she added.
(For the welfare of the public, it’s not impossible that the lockdown would be extended until May or June).
Marcos, chair of the Senate economic affairs committee, estimated that at least P550 billion can still be added to the P200-billion emergency budget now being used for cash aid to low-income households as the entire Luzon remains under lockdown.
She said the DOF should “take advantage of a window of opportunity that is gradually closing” and avail of loans.
This as she stressed that the global COVID-19 crisis could last months longer, pull down the country’s investment risk ratings, and affect bank interest rates on loans.
Marcos said the DOF can borrow about P440 billion, an amount she noted would still be within a manageable debt ceiling of 5.4 percent from the present 3.2-percent level being maintained by the government.
The senator added that unused savings from the 2019 national budget, calamity and contingency funds of government agencies like the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, PhilHealth, and the Office of the President can also be tapped to augment funds allotted for country’s COVID-19 response.
To date, Philippine health officials have confirmed 3,870 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the country.
Of the number, 182 patients have died while 96 have already recovered from the disease.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier placed the entire Luzon under an enhanced community quarantine as the number of COVID-19 cases in the country continued to increase. The quarantine became effective on March 17 and was initially set to be lifted on April 13.
The quarantine period, however, was extended until April 30.
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