The regional chambers of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Mindanao have petitioned President Rodrigo Duterte to consider a comprehensive package of measures to cushion the adverse effects of the COVID-19 outbreak and its countermeasures on business and workers in the island.
The petition was signed by Maria Teresa R. Alegrio, Area Vice President for Mindanao of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce & Industry (PCCI) and the governors of the PCCI regional chambers of South Eastern Mindanao, Central Mindanao, Northern Mindanao, Eastern Mindanao, Southwestern Mindanao, Western Mindanao, BARM Mindanao and Promote Normin Foundation headed by its President Elpidio M. Paras.
“There are about 45 PCCI local Chambers of Commerce (LCCIs ) in Mindanao, around 90% belong to MSMEs whose capitalization range from Php3M-100M while large companies comprise about 10% of the chamber members,” Alegrio said.
PCCI National President Amb. Benedicto Yujuico has endorsed the petition to President Rodrigo Duterte through Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III .
The petition describes how the lockdown of major cities and constraints placed on the movements of people and goods and services have left thousands of citizens without the means to provide for their daily needs, much less comply with the stringent measures to prevent the further spread of the virus among the populace, thus the urgent need for relief by adopting the following measures for the duration of the state of national emergency from the constraints and uncertainties imposed on livelihood, mobility and health.
“Recognizing the continuing impact of COVID-19 crisis nationwide, the enforced “Community Quarantine” on Metro Manila, including many areas in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, the cancellation of all air, land and sea travel to and from the metropolis, and key areas of the country like Cebu and Davao, restrictions to minimize the contagion, have affected businesses particularly in the travel, tourism, and their related sectors.”
Urgent Fiscal Measures
Most of the requested measures in the petition involve finance and taxation, such as requesting the Department of Finance (DOF) to allow tax payments after April 15th and waive applicable penalties and interest charges for delayed tax remittances; That Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and DOF encourage banks to declare a moratorium on loan amortizations falling due within six (6) months from the occurrence of COVID-19 for business, consumer, home and loans to large enterprises, provided affected MSMEs and corporations apply with their respective banks for the moratorium to take effect; to re-consider the holiday pay for workers for April 9, Holy Thursday (also Araw ng Kagitingan) from 300% (if a business is in operation) and 200% (if closed) to 200% (if in operation), and 100% (if closed);
Using the Conditional Cash Transfer/Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino (CCT/PPP) Program to subsidize Micro and Small Businesses; for the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to establish a rehabilitation fund for affected MSMEs for technical assistance and special financing for working capital and equipment/machinery acquisition; and for DTI to encourage Mall owners/management/lessors to waive rentals for MSMEs during the period of the closure order; or, grant a special arrangement as a support to our MSMEs.
The chambers also cited the need for DTI to strictly enforce price controls to keep food prices (and inflation) low, protect food supply and other basic and prime commodities, especially for the marginalized sectors, and enable trade to continue.
Critical communications, utilities & vital industries
Recognizing the critical role of communications in this crisis situation, the petition also asks the Department of Information & Communications Technology (DICT) to enjoin PLDT and Globe to remove all Data Capping in mobile Broadband Internet services, to allow their customers a continuous service 24/7 until the crisis is declared over.
Likewise, the need for vital industries like power, water, transport, telecommunications and others that provide essential services continue to operate with businesses and workers exercising the recommended protocols as prescribed by DOH and guidelines issued by DOLE.
Equally important, the private sector recognized the need for the immediate construction of critical health infrastructure to prevent health facilities from collapsing with the expected peaking of cases in the coming weeks.
The petition asks government to consider re-aligning allocated public infrastructure funds for the immediate construction of Specialized Covid19 Monitoring and Treatment facilities across the country;
It is also asking government to create and fund a Task Force that will be responsible for updating data and maps needed for a comprehensive snapshot of areas adversely affected by COVID-19 and the government resources deployed to curb its spread.
“Such data will be necessary for a more efficient and accurate modeling studies which will help the private sector direct its resources where it can be of most help in helping curb and eradicate COVID- 19 as well as rehabilitate businesses and workers adversely affected by the current government countermeasures vs. COVID-19,” the petition read.
On top of these, LGUs through the provincial, city and municipal health offices should aggressively campaign for the public to immediately adopt positive health habits such as personal hygiene, eat healthy food, particularly locally grown fruits and vegetables, to boost personal immunity and lessen the effects of infection.
Keeping the food chain open
Recognizing Mindanao’s key role as the food basket of the country, the petition asks that Mindanao be declared a separate food quarantine area to allow the unhampered delivery of food for the entire country.
“The Department of Agriculture’s declarations on quarantined agricultural products (affected by the foot and mouth diseases, avian flu, etc.) cover the entire country. Location-specific Quarantine will help with the continued supply of food in the country.”
Not the least, the petition urges the creation of a “food logistics backbone” from General Santos to Cebu City and Tagbilaran City via Davao and Bukidnon and government to put up cold storage at key points to keep the food chain going.
Mindanao key to PH economy
Home to about 24 percent of the country’s population, Mindanao also accounts for over 40 percent of the poor. Its share of the national budget, which has ranged from 13 percent to 15 percent, is now up to 17.9 percent.
Although three of Mindanao’s regions experienced accelerated growth in 2018 (Davao Region with 8.6 percent; Northern Mindanao, 7.0 percent, and Zamboanga Peninsula, 6.3 percent; Mindanao’s economic output per capita of about $1,800 remains approximately half of the national level. One of its regions, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Mindanao (BARM), has the lowest per capita GDP among all regions in the country.