Romualdez: DCC to OK 3 anti-COVID-19 bills

Martin Romualdez
House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez

HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez on Monday said the Defeat COVID-19 Ad Hoc Committee (DCC) will approve this Tuesday morning for plenary deliberations three anti-coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) bills, including the P568 billion economic stimulus package.

Romualdez, co-chairperson of the DCC along with Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, said the committee will approve on Tuesday morning the reports of the House committee on banks and financial intermediaries, the Economic Stimulus Response Package Subcommittee, and the Peace and Order Subcommittee regarding the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer (FIST) bill, the P568-billion Philippine Economic Stimulus Act (PESA), and the Anti-Discrimination measure, respectively.

“Immediately after consideration, the committee reports and recommendations are scheduled for plenary deliberations to address the unprecedented health crisis,” Romualdez assured, stressing the House leadership has been working double time to pass the anti-COVID measures.

Romualdez, chairman of the powerful House committee on rules, said the leadership of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano is “relentless and persistent to create a safe, adaptive and resilient Philippines to fight COVID-19 by producing clear-cut and defining legislation.”

“The responsibility is upon us to carry on the mission of embracing and serving those in need and also bringing light of hope and strength to the business community,” Romualdez pointed out.

“The House leadership is committed to do good, to aspire for better things and to muster the strength to get back on our feet,” Romualdez stressed.

FIST LAW

Under House Bill (HB) 6622 or the proposed “Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer (FIST) Law”, authored by House committee on banks and financial intermediaries chairman and Quirino Rep. Junie Cua Jr., it seeks to help financial institutions in their bad debt resolution and management of their non-performing assets (NPAs) to cushion the effects of the pandemic on their financial operations.

During the Cua panel hearing, Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez said the Department of Finance (DoF) will work with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP) to estimate the revenue erosion in the industry amid the pandemic.

As a result of the pandemic and disruption of economic activities, Cua said most financial Institutions are facing a period of delayed loan collections and are at risk of recording higher NPAs across all borrower segments.

NPAs are financial institutions' non-performing loans (NPLs) and real and other properties acquired (ROPAS) in settlement of loans and receivables.

Cua said NPAs prevent banks and financial institutions from effectively performing their crucial role of financial intermediation.

Citing the Bankers Association of the Philippines, the panel chairman said simulation shows a potential increase in NPLs from an estimated 5 percent today to 20 percent or more in a matter of months.

"This would translate into approximately P240 [billion] to P300 billion of NPLs, of which between 50 percent to 80 percent, or P120 [billion] to P240 billion, may have to be written off. Similar substantial increase is also expected for ROPAS," said Cua.

The measure encourages financial Institutions to sell NPAs to asset management companies, created as Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer Corporations (FISTC), that specialize in the resolution of distressed assets.

The bill also encourages the private sector, government financial institutions, and government-owned-or-controlled-corporations to incorporate and invest in FISTCs and help in the rehabilitation of distressed businesses with the end view of contributing to economic growth.

ECONOMIC STIMULUS

The P568-billion Economic Stimulus Package approved by DCC’s Economic Stimulus cluster co-chaired by Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, Marikina City Rep. Stella Quimbo and AAMBIS-OWA party-list Rep. Sharon Garin will help cushion the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

“Itong P568 billion ang s’ya po naming ipu-pursige dahil ito po ang dapat, at sa tingin namin hindi po nito isinusugal ang kinabukasan ng karamihan," said Salceda, the chairman of the House committee on ways and means.

Salceda echoed Romualdez’s statement that the economic stimulus program is meant to ensure business operations and jobs’ retention in this time of COVID-19 pandemic.

"In fact ito ay proportional sa problema na hinaharap natin. Napakalaking crater ang ginawa ng COVID sa ating ekonomiya, so ito po ang pantapal natin," Salceda stressed.

He said that an estimated 4.1 million employees from the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) are expected to benefit under the economic stimulus package by rescuing their troubled companies.

According to Salceda, MSMEs will receive P50 billion loans from Small Business Corp. and another P10 billion aid through the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said 99.52 percent or 998,342 of the 1,003,111 business enterprises operating across the country are MSMEs.

The Albay House leader said the P568-billion Economic Stimulus Package covers P110 billion wage subsidies for the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the P30 billion Cash For Work under DOLE-Tulong Panghanapbuhay para sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD).

"May nakalaan na P30 billion para sa informal sector dahil napakarami sa kanila ang nawalan ng trabaho. Kahit na nga ngayon dahan-dahan nating pina-panumbalik ang ating ekonomiya, subalit hindi lahat ‘yun sa ngayong taon ay makababalik sa kanilang trabaho," Salceda explained.

Salceda also said that the economic stimulus package also provides P130 billion for interest-free loans at the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), P10 billion for loan guarantees, and P25-billion capitalization for the National Development Corporation (NDC).

Under the program, Salceda said different sectors will be given assistance like tourism, P58 billion; transportation, P75 billion; industry and service sectors, P44 billion; and agri-fishery, P66 billion.

Following the extended enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon, Salceda lamented that the total economic losses now stood at P1.2 trillion.

"For the second quarter, P892 billion ang foregone GDP (Gross Domestic Product). For the first quarter, mga nasa P320 billion po. Masasabi natin po na umabot sa P1.2 trillion," Salceda explained.

He also underscored the importance to enhance the implementation of the government's Build, Build, Build (BBB) program, which seeks to create more jobs to recover the estimated P1.2 trillion economic losses.

ANTI-DISCRIMINATION

The DCC’s Peace and Order cluster co-chaired by Iloilo Rep. Raul Tupas, Masbate  Rep. Narciso Bravo, Jr. and Quezon City Rep. Jesus “Bong” Suntay, Jr. worked on the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill principally filed by Quezon City Rep. Jose Christopher “Kit” Belmonte.

The bill prohibits discrimination against person who are declared confirmed, suspect, probable, and recovered cases of COVID-19, healthcare workers and service providers.

It seeks to grant full, inviolable protection against prejudice and discrimination to thise who have already suffered and recovered from COVID-19, those who carry the brunt providing medical care, logistical and service support.

It also seeks to recognize the dignity and heroism of the work of healthworkers, responders and service workers.

The measure imposes the penalty of imprisonment of not less than six months but not more than five years, or a fine of not less than P50,000, but not more than P500,000 or both, at the discretion of the court, to any person who commits the following discriminatory practices: a) Failure to Give Assistance; b) Harassment or Assault; c) Stigmatization and d) Unlawful Refusal to Honor Valid Existing Contracts.

It also imposes the penalty of dismissal from the service if the offender is a civil servant and found guilty after investigation by the Civil Service Commission.