Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Sunday reiterated his appeal to provide additional support for the middle class, particularly micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and their employees affected by the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.
Go said most MSMEs were forced to temporarily, totally or partially close down due to the global health crisis and the extended enhanced community quarantine measures particularly in Luzon.
“Malaking parte ng bumubuhay sa ating ekonomiya ay ang mga MSMEs. Tulungan natin silang buhayin ang kanilang negosyo at maiahon ang kanilang mga empleyado habang nasa panahon ng krisis ang buong bansa (One of the biggest drivers of our economy is the MSMEs. Let us help them revive their businesses at the same time help their employees while the country is under crisis),” Go said.
Go said he has seen MSMEs struggle in keeping their businesses operational considering the adverse socio-economic impact of Covid-19.
“Mahirap kumita ngayon. Maraming napilitang magsara kaya hindi nila matustusan ang mga sweldo ng kanilang mga empleyado (It’s difficult to earn nowadays. Many have been forced to shut down that’s why they are no longer capable to support their employees),” he said.
The Davao City lawmaker, who also sits as a member of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee overseeing the implementation of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, lauded the efforts of some MSMEs who have adopted online business transactions in order to ensure availability of basic necessities, such as food in the market and, at the same time, keep their businesses afloat to take care of their employees.
“Marami pong negosyo na nag-adopt ng skeletal workforce at nag-implement ng tamang social distancing measures para patuloy na makapagserbisyo. Bagamat nananatiling bukas ang iba, hindi pa rin ito sapat para maalagaan lahat ng empleyado. (Many businesses have adopted skeletal workforce and implemented social distancing to continue their services. While others still operate, it is not enough to support all their employees),” he said.
Based on his discussions with Department of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Go said Dominguez said the government is now preparing a subsidy program for about 4 million MSMEs and their employees which is set to be rolled out in the coming weeks.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said the DOF must do what it can to ensure that there will be available funds for other affected Filipino families, as most of the already allocated budget are for programs prioritizing the most vulnerable sectors or the “poorest of the poor.”
“Huwag natin pabayaan ang iba pang mga apektadong Pilipino na nangangailangan rin ng tulong (Let us not neglect other affected Filipinos who also need help,” Go added as he urged the DOF and other concerned agencies to immediately implement measures that would also help them overcome this predicament.
To avoid duplication and to ensure that more Filipinos benefit from various government programs, Go said the beneficiaries of the subsidy program for MSME employees must be different from 18 million low-income families being assisted by programs under the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
DOF clarified that the government will only implement such assistance once the Department of Labor and Employment, through its Covid-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP), has finished its assistance programs to avoid duplication. For affected workers in the formal sector, the DOLE’s CAMP provides qualified beneficiaries a one-time financial assistance of PHP5,000 and employment facilitation services.
The DOF will get the list of qualified beneficiaries for the subsidy program from the Bureau of Internal Revenue. They will be paid directly through the Social Security System and the amount of assistance may range from PHP5,000 to PHP8,000 depending on the region.
The DOF has already exerted efforts to help the middle class by imposing a moratorium on payments of loan amortization, disallowance of compounded interest and penalties, as well as exemption from Documentary Stamp Tax.
According to data collected in 2018 by the Department of Trade and Industry, over 998,342 businesses are MSMEs and make up 99.52% of the total enterprises operating in the country.