Like the novel coronavirus which afflicts the country, the President’s default in laying out a concrete and comprehensive roadmap aggravates the pandemic.
His default in disclosing and discussing in his SONA his administration’s roadmap in response to the viral contagion also plagues the nation.
After detailing the grave and ominous data documenting the affliction on the people’s health and the country’s economy, the catastrophic situation was neither adequately addressed nor alleviated because of the President’s default.
The closest statement of the President on a purported roadmap was his plea for the Congress to enact the “Bayanihan Act Part II” which is a mini-stimulus for a full-blown health emergency and economic crisis.
What the President has prioritized in his meager stimulus package is the maintenance of the country’s favorable credit rating as recommended by his economic advisers, instead of giving premium to redressing the multitude of beleaguered Filipinos as well as countless besieged businesses.
The proposed “Bayanihan Act Part II” is too minuscule compared to our ASEAN neighbors’ COVID-19 expenditures which are much bigger in gross and per capita outlays.
According to an Asian Development Bank (ADB) report as of June/July 2020, the Philippines’ $21.1 billion in COVID-related spending is 5.7% of GDP or $197.3 per capita compared to Indonesia’s $63.4 billion which is 6.0% of GDP and $237 per capita, Thailand’s $84.1 billion which is 15.9% of GDP and $1,211.2 per capita, and Vietnam’s $26.5 billion which is 10.1% of GDP and $277.4 per capita.
The President’s proposal is even alarmingly smaller than the stimulus package approved by the House of Representatives on 04 June 2020 under H.B. No. 6815 or the Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy (ARISE) in the amount of P1.3 trillion.
The President also failed to disclose that funds are available to support a bigger stimulus package from grants and loans of multilateral institutions like Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank (WB), and Asian Investment Infrastructure Bank (AIIB) much of which have already been committed and some even already released; domestic borrowings where P250 billion alone had been recently raised in the floating of Retail Treasury Bond (RTB); donations from other countries; budgetary assistance from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) pursuant to Section 89 of its Charter; and other funding sources.
The President also failed to embark in minimizing, if not abandoning, the militaristic approach in the implementation of pandemic-related policies in order that repression would not be the guidepost in enforcement.
He should also have recognized and intensified the role of medical experts and seasoned economists because the overriding problems are health issues and economic concerns.
The President squandered his time by reviving his favorite topic on the drug menace, his repeated claim of inutility in reclaiming from China vast areas of the West Philippine Sea awarded to the Philippines by international arbitration, and resorting to his signature threatening rhetoric against perceived oligarchies in the telecommunications industry as well as in power and water utilities.
All of these meanderings cannot cover up for the President’s default in informing the nation on what exactly is his administration’s roadmap in positively and adequately responding to the novel coronavirus pandemic which still plagues the country.
EDCEL C. LAGMAN