House approves bill giving financial assistance to distressed firms

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The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on third and final reading a measure seeking to provide financial assistance to distressed enterprises critical to economic recovery in the aftermath of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) crisis.

With 185 affirmative votes, 16 negative votes, and two abstentions, the chamber passed House Bill 7749, or the proposed Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery or GUIDE Act.

The bill aims to strengthen the capacity of government financial institutions -Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) – to provide the needed financial assistance to micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), and other strategically important industries.

This seeks to address liquidity or solvency problems of MSMEs and strategically important industries, encourage their continued operations, and maintain employment levels.

It proposes to expand the loan assistance programs, rediscounting, and other credit accommodation facilities of LBP, DBP, Small Business Corporation (SBC), and Agriculture Credit Policy Council (ACPC).

The bill mandates the LBP and DBP to create a special holding company, which aims to further reinvigorate these strategically important companies heavily affected by the pandemic such as those from agriculture, infrastructure, services, and manufacturing industries.

Operation of the special holding company may be held by qualified private sector investors, but LBP and DBP will have to maintain at least a majority ownership over the firm until such time that they have recovered their investment.

The eligibility requirements of an investee company are as follows: has no pending tax-related cases in court for tax collection or tax evasion; must not be a debtor in any bankruptcy proceeding prior to the enhanced community quarantine period, and must not be insolvent and is capable of rehabilitation.

The bill seeks to appropriate P2.5 billion for the additional paid-up capital of the DBP and P7.5 billion for LBP.

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