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MSMEs desperate for help — solon

WITH only one month left before the expiration of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2, a House leader on Sunday called for the immediate release of funds intended to assist micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

House Deputy Majority Leader and Bagong Henerasyon (BH) party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) must ensure struggling MSMEs would benefit from the P10 billion allocated for the COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) under the Bayanihan 2.

“Congress allocated that amount precisely to help these struggling MSMEs so that they could continue operating and paying their employees,” Herrera pointed out.

“Our economy is slowly opening up again and our MSMEs will play a big role in its revival, so we should provide them with the necessary assistance right away,” she added.

According to the DTI, P8 billion out of the P10 billion allotted for CARES has already been released to the Small Business Corporation (SBCorp).

The P10 billion was intended as capital infusion to the SBCorp to assist MSMEs and the tourism industry through the provision of low-interest loans.

The CARES fund was expected to benefit around 100,000 enterprises and 200,000 workers.

However, the DTI itself revealed that only a total of 6,600 loans have been approved so far, equivalent to P1.2 billion; while 26,000 CARES loan applications are still pending with the SBCorp.

“The DTI should push SBCorp to fast-track the processing of loans and release the money to qualified MSMEs ASAP,” Herrera said.

The party-list lawmaker lamented that MSMEs are among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic due to the community quarantine restrictions.

“The pandemic pushed many MSMEs into financial hardship, prompting them to either shut down permanently or lay off some workers just to stay afloat,” Herrera said.

Bayanihan 2 succeeded the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which also gave President Duterte special powers to effectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The law is set to expire on Dec. 10, but many lawmakers are keen on extending the validity of some of its provisions to make sure all of the benefits would be distributed to their intended beneficiaries.