After expecting President Rodrigo Duterte to announce and discuss his administration’s roadmap in response to the ravages on our people and economy of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is completely frustrating that any masterplan was only mentioned peripherally.
The anticipated roadmap meandered into the roadside of trite generalities and an invocation that the people should “trust its government” without telling them what actually the government’s plans are.
While the President proposed a number of laws which should be enacted, some of these have already been mentioned in his previous SONAs, all of these proposed legislations can be threshed out in the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) which the President has not convened for a long time.
The only statement of the President pertinent to a “roadmap” in response to the pandemic is his endorsement for the Congress to approve the “Bayanihan Act Part II” which appropriates a minimal amount of only P140 to P162 billion.
This miniscule amount cannot properly respond to health and economic emergencies, and it is stingy compared to our ASEAN neighbors whose COVID-19 expenditures are much bigger in gross and per capita outlay.
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.
What the President did not disclose is that there are funds available to support a bigger stimulus package like the grants and loans of multilateral institutions like Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank, 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 its Charter; and other funding sources.
What the President appears to have prioritized, as recommended by his economic advisers, is the maintenance of the country’s favorable credit rating instead of giving premium to redressing the multitude of beleaguered Filipinos as well as countless besieged businesses.
The President also failed to mention that the militaristic approach in the implementation of COVID-related policies must be minimized, if not abandoned, so that repression is not the guidepost in enforcement.
The President likewise failed to mention that the role of medical experts and seasoned economists must be recognized and intensified because the overriding problems are health issues and economic concerns.
EDCEL C. LAGMAN