Several senators said controlling the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is key to improving the economy, following the 16.5-percent decline in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the second quarter from a year ago.
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said the Philippine economy can only improve and “get people back to work, consume and invest” if they are confident that the government can address health concerns.
Recto said among the reasons for dampened consumption, which comprises 60 percent of the economic pie, is the people’s fear of contracting the virus.
Another factor in the plunging consumption is the lack of public transportation, which in turn contributed to the surge in the unemployment rate, the veteran legislator noted.
“Unless we improve our health response the economy will not recover as quickly as we want it. A comprehensive health response, especially testing, which in turn will rebuild confidence, is the main ingredient of the cocktail of cures,” the seasoned lawmaker said.
“We must flatten the curve to revive the flat-lining economy.”
“We must flatten the curve to revive the flat-lining economy,” the senator added.
For starters, he said the government must use the next two weeks to motivate the country’s health personnel, hire more of them, improve hospital capacity to treat those who need it, test more, and isolate those infected.
Recto also urged the government’s economic team to present during budget hearings a “second half” battle plan.
“We lost P1.4 trillion during the first half. About P10.8 billion daily from April to June alone. The economy is gasping in the ER and a more robust stimulus package is the ventilator that it needs,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, emphasized the need to revive the demand side of the economy by restoring the people’s confidence in the ability of the government to handle the pandemic.
“The key is to revive demand, but that will only happen when people feel safe to go out. People will feel confident when they see that the government is doing the right thing, effective measures are in place and the healthcare system is not collapsing,” he said.
“Thus, it all boils down to our ability to control the pandemic,” Drilon said.
The veteran legislator said there is a need to increase the stimulus fund under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan2).
The House of Representatives recently passed the measure on second reading, containing a P162 billion-stimulus fund.
The seasoned lawmaker said the second round of social amelioration program (SAP) is in order for those who were badly hit by the pandemic.
“Their lives did not become better after receiving the first tranche. They are the ones who continue to experience hunger every day. The government should provide for them until the pandemic is over,” the senator said.
His call for a second round of SAP was echoed by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian who pointed out that the economic contraction created by the coronavirus pandemic will push numerous families back into poverty that will eventually worsen hunger and malnutrition in our country.
“The government should continue to give out the SAP even if we revert to GCQ.”
“At this point, it is important for the government to guarantee that there is food on the table for every Filipino family. I implore the government to expedite the distribution of the second tranche of the SAP to the 18 million low-income beneficiaries since most areas have again been placed under stricter quarantine protocols,” Gatchalian said.
“Given that many of our constituents may not be able to go back to their respective work under a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), the government should continue to give out the SAP even if we revert to the general community quarantine (GCQ). This is to ensure that no family will go hungry with the economy in tailspin under the pandemic,” the seasoned lawmaker added.
Meanwhile, Senator Sonny Angara assured that the Senate is willing to work with economic managers to hammer out the needed economic recovery strategy.
“All economies of the world are in a recession. What is important is the recovery strategy which a country pursues,” the chair of the Senate Committee on Finance said.
“Bayanihan 2 will help initially but many are commenting it should be followed by other economic actions. Kami naman sa Senado (As for us in the Senate), we have shown our willingness to work with our economic managers to pursue a successful recovery strategy,” Angara concluded.