The deadline for the distribution of cash aid in the National Capital Region Plus has been moved to May 15.
This was announced Tuesday by the Department of the Interior and Local Government, whose Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said in a statement that this was a “one-time extension”, and the deadline would no longer be extended.
The extension was approved by Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Social Welfare and Development Secretary Rolando Bautista, and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana after their meeting with Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairperson Benhur Abalos and all NCR mayors on Sunday.
“It is very challenging to do distribution during a pandemic. Our LGUs cannot go full blast given the grave threat of COVID-19 so their request for more time is justified,” Malaya said.
Filipinos had lost around P83.3 billion in possible income due to the stricter lockdown measures enforced for almost five weeks in Metro Manila and four adjacent provinces due to a new surge in COVID-19 cases, a Cabinet official said.
Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua said for every week of ECQ, the income lost was P19.6 billion, and for every week of MECQ, the income lost was P14.7 billion was lost, during a pre-recorded briefing with President Rodrigo Duterte that aired on Monday night.
“Because we had two weeks of ECQ and we had an extension of almost three weeks of MECQ – so a total of almost five weeks — the effect on people is P83.3 billion in foregone wages,” Chua added.
“Of course, this is one of our concerns, but we believe that we should help each other so that we could find a solution to this spike — so that we can slowly reopen our economy and give it back to the people,” he added.
Still, Chua said that the country was able to generate 9.3 million jobs despite the pandemic.
“By February 2021, we were able to create 9.3 million jobs. So that means we were able to recover the lost jobs and even added 600,000 jobs. And this is valuable because this is what runs our economy,” he said.
“But the unemployment rate is somewhat high at 8.8 percent. What we’re aiming at is that, hopefully, by next year the unemployment rate returns to 4 to 5 percent. And the last thing that NEDA is monitoring is the income or the salaries of people,” Chua added.
With the extension, Malaya said LGUs could utilize one or a combination of different schemes like house-to-house distribution, automated financial system, or designated public distribution points.
LGUs will also have more time to address all complaints and appeals submitted to the Grievance and Appeals Committee.
“Hundreds of appeals were submitted by people to the LGU Grievance and Appeals Committee and the LGUs need time to validate, investigate and decide on these appeals,” Malaya said.
As of Monday, the DILG said a total P5.7 billion out of the P11.1 billion released to NCR LGUs had been received by beneficiaries. Data was still being compiled from the provinces of Bulacan, Laguna, Rizal, and Cavite, the DILG said.
The government allocated P22.9 billion for a cash assistance program for the affected residents. They will receive an assistance of P1,000 per individual with a maximum of P4,000 per family.
The cash aid distribution started April 7.
Meanwhile, Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda said the statement by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that the Philippines still has fiscal space for additional government support “strengthens the case for a third Bayanihan Act and for more funds for better vaccine rollout.”
Salceda, a principal author of Bayanihan 3 and chairman of the House committee on ways and means, made the comment in response to an IMF pronouncement that the Philippines still has fiscal space which it could utilize to support its recovery from the coronavirus-induced crisis.
“The IMF staff advises that fiscal policy should ‘continue doing its part this year.’ The Philippines still has some fiscal space and can and should maintain its fiscal support to recovery,” IMF Representative to the Philippines Yongzheng Yang said in a statement.
“The IMF’s statement shows that we can approve Bayanihan 3 with little adverse consequence on our credit standing. Together with the revenue-generating efforts of the House, we should be alright,” Salceda said.
More fiscal support, particularly for vaccination, is important, adding that he was not satisfied with the answers of the Department of
Health (DOH) to earlier questions on the budget for vaccine rollout during the Bayanihan 3 hearings, Salceda said.
He said: “The answer they gave was P4-5 billion, which is totally inadequate to do mega-vaccination, when the global supply becomes looser after July. So, we in Congress will need to have some foresight and prepare fiscal space for vaccine rollout requirements.”
This developed as Salceda's fellow Bicolano legislator, Camarines Sur
Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte renewed his appeal to the House leadership to quit its "unsound fixation on the highly divisive and counterproductive Charter Change initiative" as the country continues to grapple with a surge in Covid-19 cases, the tight global supply of vaccines that has hampered the government's ambitious inoculation drive, and the weak vaccine trust among many Filipinos.
Instead, Villafuerte said the House leadership should focus on three economic reform measures recently certified as urgent by President
Duterte to further liberalize the economy: the proposed amendments to the Public Service Act (PSA), Retail Trade Liberalization Act (RTLA) of 2000, and Foreign Investments Act (FIA) of 1991.
President Duterte said these should be immediately enacted “in order to address the immediate and continuing need for legislative reforms to provide a more conducive investment climate, increase job opportunities, foster more competition and further spur the country’s economic growth,” the lawmaker said.
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