The government should immediately release funds on standby to stem the growing panic among ordinary wage earners in industries most affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) scare, Senator Imee Marcos said.
Marcos, who heads the Senate economic affairs committee, said that funds marked “for later release” can be used to augment the “inadequate” P140 million in emergency funds of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and can be sourced from the Department of Budget and Management and other national agencies.
“Kahit pantawid-gutom man lang, kailangan ng compensatory packages ang mga ordinaryong wage earners na talagang mawawalan ng trabaho habang umaaligid pa itong Covid-19,” Marcos said.
Marcos explained that only 7,000 workers will benefit from the DOLE’s emergency funds if each receives P20,000 in aid, citing that more than twice the number of workers face lay-offs in the garment exports sector alone.
The Philippine garment export industry has about 300,000 direct hires, with some companies already implementing “temporary forced leaves” on 5 percent to 10 percent of their workforce due to an unreliable supply of materials caused by a manufacturing slowdown in China.
Marcos also said a projected downturn of 1.4 million tourist arrivals up to June may put 30,000 to 50,000 employees out of work, based on data from the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).
Marcos called on the Department of Tourism (DOT) to rethink its marketing strategy of promoting domestic tourism to take up the slack in foreign tourists.
“Hindi na uubra yan. Naka-imposed na ang community quarantine sa buong Metro Manila at maari pa itong tumagal at lumawak sa buong bansa kung lumala ang paglaganap ng Covid-19,” Marcos said.
Marcos added that the DOT should instead redirect funds allotted for marketing abroad to cushion retrenchment and loss of income.
The Asian Development Bank estimates some 252,000 jobs may be lost in factories, economic zones, tourism, and among OFWs unable to leave the country, Marcos said.
Marcos appealed to NEDA and the Department of Finance not to understate its numbers, so that President Duterte can decide on emergency aid and stimulus packages that are truly responsive to the magnitude of the Covid-19 threat.
“Hindi magandang mag-plano sa magandang scenario. Mas magandang mag-plano sa worst-case,” Marcos said./Stacy Ang