Drilon says ‘shotgun’ approach vs COVID-19 drove PH into recession
MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon believes the government’s “shotgun” approach in dealing with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic drove the Philippines into recession.
“Nobody expected it to be this severe. This is the result of the ‘shotgun’ approach in handling COVID-19. This shows the grim reality: gutom ang tao – walang trabaho, walang pera at ubos na ang ipon (Filipinos are hungry, jobless and with no savings),” Drilon said in a statement on Thursday.
The Philippine economy shrank by 16.5 percent in the second quarter compared to last year, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported, amid the world’s longest lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The senator said the “pandemic-induced” recession should serve as an “eye-opener” for the country’s COVID-19 task force and economic managers.
Drilon also underscored the need to revive the demand side of the economy by restoring the public’s confidence in the ability of the government to address the pandemic.
“The people’s confidence is shattered and the corruption and incompetence issues against government officials playing a key role in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic make things even worse,” he said.
Further, Drilon said the government should ramp up its efforts to curb the transmission of the virus.
“The key is to revive demand but that will only happen when the people feel safe to go out. People will feel confident when they see that the government is doing the right thing, effective measures are in place and the healthcare system is not collapsing,” he said.
“Thus, it all boils down to our ability to control the pandemic,” he added.
The minority senator said “the government must take swift and decisive actions” within the remaining months of the year to help the poor and revive the demand side of the economy.
“We need to do a second round of social amelioration program. We should expand it but we must retain those families who received the first tranche because they are the ones who are badly hit by the pandemic,” Drilon said.
“There is no sense that they were included in the first tranche but were delisted in the second tranche. Their lives did not become better after receiving the first tranche. They are the ones who continue to experience hunger every day. The government should provide for them until the pandemic is over,” he added.
There is a need to increase the stimulus fund under the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, or the Bayanihan 2, Drilon also said.
The Bayanihan 2 bill lays out the country’s COVID-19 response and recovery plan.
The Senate’s version of the measure, which has already been approved on third and final reading, provides for a P140 billion standby fund, Meanwhile, the House of Representatives recently passed its version on second reading containing a P162 billion-standby fund.
The two chambers of Congress will have to reconcile their versions in a bicameral conference committee before transmitting the measure to President Rodrigo Duterte for his signature.
Similar to Drilon, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian also banked on the distribution of cash assistance to affected families to “ensure that no family will go hungry with the economy in tailspin under the pandemic.”
“The economic contraction created by the coronavirus pandemic will push numerous families back into poverty that will eventually worsen hunger and malnutrition in our country,” Gatchalian said in a separate statement.
“At this point, it is important for the government to guarantee that there is food on the table for every Filipino family,” he added.
He implored the government to expedite the distribution of the second tranche of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) to the 18 million low-income beneficiaries since most areas have again been placed under stricter quarantine protocols.
“Given that many of our constituents may not be able to go back to their respective work under a Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ), the government should continue to give out the SAP even if we revert to General Community Quarantine (GCQ),” the senator said.
To date, confirmed cases in the Philippines reached 119,460 with 3,561 new infections.
Of the number, 66,837 have recovered while 1,962 have died, according to health officials. [ac]
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