The government should shoulder 75 percent, amounting to about P63 billion, of the payroll pay of small businesses adversely affected by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Senator Imee Marcos said on Friday.
Marcos, chair of the Senate committee on economic reforms, said the government would need P63 billion to subsidize the wages of about 5 million workers.
The government, Marcos said, can well afford the wage subsidy because it has huge savings from the 2019 budget and collections for this year.
Under the “Sagip Sahod,” she said the government can help small industries to resume operations after the lockdown due to COVID-19.
Marcos also said she wanted the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” be amended to also give risk allowance to other frontliners like garbage collectors and those working in the media industry.
As this developed, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go urged the national and local governments to begin drawing up a stable and conducive policy environment that will entice stakeholders and investors to start businesses in the provinces to support the plan for the implementation of a “Balik Probinsya” program after the country overcomes the COVID-19 crisis.
Go said motivating city dwellers and incentivizing businesses to relocate to the provinces will be the long-term goal. Key programs of different agencies that can help promote the “Balik Probinsya” initiative must be identified and prioritized.
He said policies may complement the objectives of the proposed Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act or the CITIRA bill, now pending in the Senate.
The bill, which seeks to reform the corporate income tax and incentives system in the country, will provide a fair ground of tax collection and incentive for urban and rural areas, and benefit local and rural communities with the new investments coming in. It is primarily authored by Senator Pia Cayetano and was certified as urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte last March.
Acting National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director-General and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said that the grant of tax incentives can be more targeted to the provinces since the present system grants the same incentives regardless of the location of a business in the country.
And by giving more incentives for new business in the countryside, Chua believes that investors can invest outside of Metro Manila and other Metropolitan areas.
Department of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Chua believe that passage of Senate Bill 1357 or the Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act (CITIRA) will reinforce the “Balik Probinsya” program where more incentives will be given to business in the provinces.
Government agencies and leaders from the private sector have recently signified their support to the proposed “Balik Probinsya” program.
Admitting that this is a long-term plan to decongest Metro Manila and other big metropolitan areas, as well as to accelerate socio-economic development in the countryside, Go hopes that this program will usher new opportunities for a brighter future even for ordinary Filipinos now grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This plan aims to decongest urban areas as congestion proves to be a significant factor in the high number of COVID-19 cases. It also aims to boost rural development and create livelihood opportunities in the countryside to encourage city dwellers and businesses to move to the provinces,l explained Go.
“As the President mentioned in his past statements, starting fresh in the provinces would give Filipinos HOPE for a better future after COVID-19 crisis,” further stated Go.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the government needs to speed up urgent as well as long-term help for the 2.2 million Filipinos rendered jobless by COVID-19 and the subsequent halt in most economic activities.
During Labor Day celebration, also the first day of the third extension of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), Pangilinan said this was a unique day workers were not together in the factory, office and roads, and even in farms, sea, roads and construction site.
Due to ECQ, he pointed out that 2.2 million lost their jobs. Also rendered jobless were the 200,000 OFWs (overseas Filipino workers).
“We welcome the labor department’s workplace protection and COVID prevention plan, as well as its recovery plan to create one million jobs in the provinces. Kailangang madaliin ito,” he added.
Earlier, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the recovery plan under discussion will also provide “a three-month wage subsidy to workers in micro and small-scale enterprises, including those in the ‘gig’ economy and members of the mass media.”
“Ang mabilisang pagresponde sa pamamagitan ng cash aid o wage subsidy ang magsasalba sa gutom sa mga pamilya ng mga manggagawa habang nakikipagbunuan tayo sa krisis pangkalusugang ito,” Pangilinan said.
At the same time, Pangilinan lauded all workers, especially front-liners and including those who work from home and those who are hustling to survive mostly through micro-entrepreneurship./Stacy Ang