Senators call for judicious action plan to avert PH ‘sinking’ economy amid pandemic
MANILA, Philippines — Some senators on Tuesday expressed concerns over the country’s “sinking” economy amid the pandemic, with one lawmaker saying that the Philippines lost at least P4 billion a day because of the 2020 health crisis.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon warned that failing to address the Philippines’ “sinking” economy could create “more serious consequences,” including increased crimes, extreme poverty, hunger, and joblessness.
“I agree with the President. That Philippine economy is ‘sinking and sinking.’ It is a grim reality that we have to face. I am extremely alarmed by the continued decline of our economy and the rising inflation. Let us face it as a nation,” Drilon said in a statement.
In a speech aired Monday night, President Rodrigo Duterte said the Philippine economy is “sinking deeper and deeper” and is losing P2 billion a day due to the pandemic.
“The question now is, what do our economic managers plan to do? The people would want to see a clear plan to address our worsening economic situation,” Drilon went on.
“I call for a unified approach to address the worsening economic condition of the country,” he added.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the Philippines is losing at least P4 billion a day in 2020 amid the pandemic, higher than what the President earlier remarked.
“We’re losing at least [P4 billion] a day. Last year,” Recto said in a message to reporters.
He advised government agencies to spend their allocated funds “early on” to “help prevent more job losses.”
For his part, Senator Panfilo Lacson said that the country’s economy “is definitely in bad shape.”
This is “made even worse by the difficult choice between addressing health-related problems and the sinking economy,” the senator said in a separate statement.
Lacson stressed that policy decisions “play a vital role” in striking a balance between long-term implications on the economy and the immediate effects on the public’s health concerns.
“The right decisions will chart our path towards a sustainable ‘new normal,’ pull us out from pits of social and economic distress, and shape a safer and more resilient society,” he added.
Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros believes the economy would not have plummeted to the current level if more funding had been allocated for health, agriculture, digital transformation and connectivity.
“Kung lumulubog na, hindi ba’t dapat abutan na ng life vest para iligtas? Pare-parehong bagsak ang ekonomiya ng ibang mga bansa, pero Pilipinas ang makakaranas ng pinakamahabang kalbaryo,” she said.
(If it’s already sinking, shouldn’t we provide a live vest to save it? Economies across the world are also down but the Philippines is suffering the longest.)
“Hindi dapat ganito kadami ang nawalan ng trabaho kung binigyang-prayoridad ang health budget na lulutas sa pangunahing problema na kinakaharap ng bansa, ang pandemya,” she added.
(The number of jobless Filipinos should not have been this many if there was the prioritization of the health budget that would solve the most pressing problem of the country, the pandemic.)
“Hindi dapat ganito katindi ang pagbagsak ng ekonomiya kung nakinig sa mga panawagang gastusan ang programa sa agrikultura, hospital expansion, digital transformation at connectivity,” she further said.
(The economy would not have been in this state if they listened to proposals to provide enough funding for agriculture, hospital extension, digital transportation and connectivity.)
This, as she pointed out that such interventions could have generated more jobs for Filipinos.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III assured that the Senate will “diligently pass” pass measures “vital to our economic recovery as we are doing now..”
“We can only hope that the world will be able to arrest the pandemic at the soonest possible time,” Sotto told reporters.
‘Protect the poorest’
Likewise, Drilon said Congress should devote its remaining calendar days to legislate bills that would “directly benefit the economy and uplift the lives of the Filipino people.”
“[I]f Congress fails to address these urgent problems in the remaining months of the second regular session, then it will be harder to attend to these when election season kicks in,” he added.
Further, Drilon said the government’s “primary concern” should be to “protect the poorest and the most vulnerable sectors of the economy.”
“We must throw a lifeline to the poor who are having difficulties [coping] with the effects of the pandemic and inflation. Unfortunately, the 2021 national budget provides too little for the poor,” Drilon said.
He then underscored the need for the government to improve its pandemic response, citing recent findings of Australia-based think tank Lowy Institute, which ranked the Philippines 79th out of 98 countries in terms of ability to fight the crisis.
“We must work on increasing the people’s confidence in the government’s Covid-19 vaccination program,” the senator said.
“Again, our ability to win the fight against the pandemic largely depends on the success of our vaccination program. The sooner we are able to implement a successful COVID-19 vaccination drive, the faster our economic recovery would be,” he added.
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