Closer partnership, stimulus fund, other measures needed to recover from COVID-19



Stakeholders, including leaders from the micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) sector, called for increased consultation and stronger partnership with government, stimulus fund and other economic measures that will help Filipino enterprises recover and overcome the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and enhanced community quarantine.


Maria Teresa Alegrio, assistant vice president for Mindanao of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), in an online forum on April 1, said they hope there will be consultations with government agencies on the ground level in terms of economic assistance to MSMEs under the recently enacted Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.


"We hope that this will really be consulted at the ground level because for example here in Mindanao we [private sector] are not really given so much participation in the decision making or even in the allocation of resources," said Alegrio.


She said the business community in Mindanao is offering to be partners with government "because we want it to be a realistic plan so that if ever this is going to be a long haul we can gradually come back."


She added that the city and provincial chambers of commerce in Mindanao are conducting a rapid impact assessment in their areas on the magnitude of disruption and lost business opportunities, and based on this, will submit their recommendations for business resumption and recovery to the government.


"We are going to consolidate all of these and come up with a bigger petition because we know these soft loans or economic assistance… will depend on the conditions of each area," said Alegrio.


She further said she would like the private sector to be given a voice on "what can be more manageable in our respective areas rather than come up with something like a very centralized system which actually cannot be adopted."


"We have to regionalize this allocation of economic assistance to the MSMEs," she concluded.


At the same e-forum, Salvio Valenzuela, executive director of the Chamber of Furniture Industries of the Philippines, said a stimulus fund would be needed to sustain companies and ensure their recovery from and resilience to the shock of the health crisis.


"The stimulus fund should be developed by the government to aid all the industries and to have specific support especially for the export sector," he said.


The provision of a stimulus fund, he added, is already being done by governments in other countries.


Meanwhile, Mediatrix Villanueva, president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (PHILEXPORT) Region 5, pressed for a reduction in the interest charges for MSMEs "so that it is less of a worry for the people who want to stay in business."


Lower interest rates are particularly beneficial especially since supply chain costs have been on the rise as a result of the lockdown, transport restrictions, and logistic disruptions, Villanueva added.


Ferdinand Ferrer, PHILEXPORT trustee for the electronics sector and PCCI chairman of the manufacturing committee, requested the government to immediately implement the 20% reduction in corporate income tax under the Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act or CITIRA Bill.


"As all the countries will start up again, they will put massive injection such as financial packages and stimulus packages," he said, adding these packages through CITIRA can raise the competitiveness level of companies in the Philippines.


The forum is the first in a series of e-discussions titled "#ResilienceandRecoveryPH: An eForum Series" put together in response to the call for bayanihan during this health crisis. The series is held every Wednesday, from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., starting April 1. It is organized by PHILEXPORT, PCCI, Employers Confederation of the Philippines, and Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation.  --- Philexport News and Features