Lifelines extended to Filipinos amid prolonged lockdown
MANILA, Philippines —Customers of electric cooperatives who use less than 50 kilowatts per hour a month can expect some relief from paying their bills as they will not be charged for the March-to-April period, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said on Wednesday.
The Social Security System (SSS) also announced a calamity loan to help workers displaced by the coronavirus outbreak, while the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) extended the filing of returns to May 30 to give taxpayers more time to meet their obligations after an expected easing of lockdown measures after April 30.
Nograles said the relief for power consumers was part of the Pantawid Liwanag, a program that aims to help some 3 million poor users of electricity in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
It would be on top of the one-month grace period they would get to pay their power bills, said Nograles, spokesperson for the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases.
He thanked the National Electrification Administration, Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association Inc., and other electric cooperatives for the endeavor.
Enough power supply
At the same time, Nograles assured the public that Luzon would have enough power supply during the quarantine period.
The Department of Energy reported an available capacity of 11,795 megawatts (MW), which Nograles said was greater than the actual peak demand of 7,323 MW in Luzon.
“This means we currently have an excess capacity of 4,742 MW. There is full supply of power in Luzon,” he said.
There will also be enough water, he said, since the National Water Resources Board has given the full water allocation of 46 cubic meters per second to the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System from Angat Dam up to April 30 to ensure the continuous supply of water in Metro Manila during the lockdown.
SSS calamity loan
President Duterte placed the entire island of Luzon on lockdown in mid-March to halt the spread of the new coronavirus in the Philippines. The lockdown was originally scheduled to end on April 13, but he extended it to April 30 on the recommendation of the task force to prevent a resurgence of the virus that would almost certainly follow an early lifting of restrictions.
To help its members who have lost their earning capacity due to the stay-at-home orders, the SSS is launching a nationwide calamity loan program on April 24.
Fernando Nicolas, SSS vice president for public affairs and special events, told a webinar on Wednesday that the loan would be P20,000 or equivalent to a month’s salary credit, based on the average credit during the last 12 months or the amount applied for, whichever is lower.
Nicolas said the SSS was making the loan available to cover its members’ contingencies from March to May.
The fund has set aside about P20.4 billion for more than 1.74 million potential borrowers, he said.
Members may file their loan applications through the SSS website or its mobile app using their My.SSS accounts. Once approved, the loan will be credited to members’ enrolled bank accounts, Nicolas said.
“The loan is payable in 27 months, inclusive of the three-month moratorium period. Amortization shall start [in] the fourth month after the date of approval of the loan,” he said.
“The service fee of 1 percent of the loan amount is waived. The loan is subject to the interest rate of 10 percent per annum, which will start [in] the fourth month, computed on a diminishing principal balance,” he added.
The SSS, he said, is also working on a possible moratorium in payments of housing and pension loans.
Tax deadlines extended
The BIR, meanwhile, has extended by two weeks, or up to May 30, the deadline for filing 2019 returns following the extension of the Luzon lockdown up to April 30.
The mandatory deadline for the filing of returns is April 15, but the BIR extended it to May 15 after the President locked down Luzon, home to half of the country’s population of 107 million, on March 16 in a bid to beat back the spread of the coronavirus.
According to Deputy Revenue Commissioner Arnel Guballa, the actual new deadline is May 29, a Friday, since May 30 is a Saturday.
The new deadline for the filing of returns is part of regulations published by the BIR on Wednesday extending the deadlines for 40 transactions and documents, including value-added tax refunds and tax credit/refund applications.
Last week, the agency further extended the deadline for its amnesty for tax delinquencies to June 28. It earlier moved to May 23 from April 23 the deadline for tax delinquencies.
The amnesty, which started in April last year, covers all national taxes — capital gains tax, documentary stamp tax, donor’s tax, excise tax, income tax, percentage tax, VAT and withholding tax for 2017 and previous years.
The BIR also moved to May 25 from April 25 the deadline for the payment of the quarterly percentage tax.
—WITH A REPORT FROM BEN O. DE VERA
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