Press Release
April 8, 2020

Bong Go reiterates appeal for support to middle class amid extension of ECQ: 'Help all affected Filipinos overcome this crisis'

In light of the extension of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the island of Luzon, Senator Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go echoed the appeal of local officials, civic organizations and entrepreneurs for government to also provide aid to middle class Filipino families amid the current coronavirus disease (COVID-19) emergency.

"Marami pong Pilipino na hindi kasama sa poorest of the poor pero kailangan rin ng tulong. Ito ang mga may trabaho pero apektado ang operasyon ng negosyo o ng mga employers nila. Dapat matulungan lahat ng apektado na malampasan ang krisis na ito," Go explained.

"Bagamat may trabaho, wala silang gaanong savings. Malaki ang kontribusyon nila sa buwis na nakokolekta ng gobyerno at sila rin ang bumubuhay sa ekonomiya ng bansa. Huwag natin sila pabayaan," he said, referring to the middle class that comprises a big portion of those affected by the crisis.

In line with this, Go reiterated his appeal to banks, quasi-banks and other financial institutions, both public and private, to provide a grace period and impose no increase in interest rates on consumer and corporate loans to assist the Filipino middle class in recovering from the unprecedented challenges brought by COVID-19 crisis.

"Kailangan po 'yung palugit, ika nga sa Tagalog. Bigyan muna natin ang mga Pilipino, lalo na ang mga middle class, ng palugit. Mahihirapan po silang magbayad sa ngayon dahil walang trabaho, walang negosyo. Mahirap kumita sa panahong ito," Go said.

In its message to its members released last March 29, the Bankers Association of the Philippines urged its members to continue providing necessary services to the public and maintain reasonable lending rates as the island of Luzon and other areas are under enhanced community quarantine.

The Senator added that Republic Act (RA) No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act gives the President the necessary authority to implement the provision on payment of loans.

Under RA 11469, President Rodrigo Duterte is authorized to direct all public and private banks, quasi-banks, financing companies, lending companies, and other financial institutions, including the Government Service Insurance System, Social Security System and Pag-ibig Fund, to implement a minimum of a 30-day grace period for the payment of all loans without incurring interests, penalties, fees and other charges.

The covered loans include salary, personal, housing, and motor vehicle loans, as well as credit card payments, falling due within the period of the enhanced community quarantine, now extended until April 30. Interests, penalties, fees or other charges can be waived, and persons with multiple loans may also be given the minimum 30-day grace period for every loan.

"Mahalaga po ang papel ng middle class sa ating bansa at ekonomiya. Kaya naman po nararapat lamang na hindi sila mapabayaan ng gobyerno sa krisis na ito," Go said.

As support for affected Filipinos, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Securities and Exchange Commission have earlier implemented the allocation of funds for assistance to local governments as well as to micro, small and medium enterprises by subsidizing the salaries of their employees who are mostly from the lower middle class.

This came after President Rodrigo Duterte authorized the Bangko Sentral, under RA 11469, to realign the budget of government-owned and -controlled corporations to address the needs of the Filipinos during the global pandemic.

According to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, a budget of P205 billion is at the government's disposal to provide support for those in the informal sector, in addition to fully funding the needs of the health care sector. A subsidy program for employees of SMEs that are totally or partially closed due to the crisis is also being initiated by the government.

The government has also provided additional support to the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry after the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has officially considered and declared farmers, fishers, agri-fishery industry stakeholders, and other workers in the food value chain as "frontliners".

This support aims to enhance food production and availability throughout the country amid the extended ECQ.

"I now urge the different national agencies to immediately hand over the much-needed assistance to our Filipino brothers and sisters. Let us perfect the distribution system on this first month of enhanced community quarantine since we still do not know how long this crisis will last," Go said in a previous statement.

Go continued his appeal to the private sector, particularly big businesses, to help augment the assistance to the middle class by taking care of their respective employees and communities.

"This assistance prioritizes those at the bottom, the poorest, most vulnerable and the displaced. It trickles up as the government prepares assistance to SME (small- and medium-sized enterprises) as well. It is thus my hope that those on top - the rich and the big businesses - will continue to meet us halfway by keeping on augmenting the aid coming from government as well as by taking care of their communities and employees," he appealed.

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