Senator Juan Edgardo Angara on Wednesday urged the government to release the remaining funds intended to assist the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) affected by the COVID-19 pandemic before the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act or Bayanihan 2 expires in December.
During the continuation of the plenary debates on the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget, Angara noted that only P1-billion out of the P10-billion allocated as capital infusion to the Small Businesses Corporation of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to assist MSMEs and the tourism industry has been released.
DTI officials pointed out that a total of 1,660 loans, amounting to P1.2-billion have been approved so far. But there are over 26,000 loan applications that are still pending because the balance of the funding under the COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) program has not been downloaded to the DTI.
“The MSMEs are among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic due to the community quarantine restrictions. A significant number of these enterprises have closed shop because they could no longer sustain their losses and many others are at risk of suffering the same fate,” Angara said.
“We provided this much funding under Bayanihan 2 precisely to help these struggling MSMEs so that they could continue operating and paying their employees,” the senator said.
The Senate Finance Committee chief further pointed out that the country’s economy is slowly opening up again and believes MSMEs will play a big role in its revival.
“So we should provide them with the necessary assistance right away,” he stressed.
“We hope the money can be released already so they can process even more of these loans. If the money is available then they can process all of this,” he said.
Since Bayanihan 2 is about to lapse, Angara said the Senate would be discussing the possibility of extending the validity of some of the law’s provisions so that all of the benefits would be distributed to their intended beneficiaries.
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon echoed Angara’s call saying the Executive “should cooperate by releasing the funds.”
Drilon pointed out that even if Congress opts to extend the Bayanihan 2 but there is no fund, an extension of the law would be impractical.
“Of the P6-billion under SBCorp., only P1-billion has been released. We have already applications for loans – 26,000 pending applications and we cannot process it because there is no fund. Even if we can extend (Bayanihan 2) but there is no fund, that’s useless,” Drilon said.
“Our problem is, we need funds. Given the reality that our revenues our down, we should open ourselves to a higher deficit and higher borrowings. Even if we extend the validity of the Bayanihan 2, if we cannot back it up with funds, either through revenues or borrowings, then it is a useless exercise,” the minority leader stressed.