Manila Standard : ‘Help areas under granular lockdown’

22 September 2021

By Manila Standard

Former Sen. Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. has asked the government to provide firms in granular lockdown areas with cash and tax incentives to help them stay afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic which hit the country since March last year.

Marcos broached the idea during his recent radio interview with veteran broadcast journalist Deo Macalma of dzRH.

Marcos, endorsed by the Federal Party of the Philippines as its presidential candidate the other day, noted that when a certain area was under granular lockdown, no one would be allowed to leave that area nor visit the same.

Reason, he added, there would be no jobs where small businesses, like variety stores, barbers, vehicle mechanics would be able to stay afloat.

The government recently announced a shift in its COVID-19 strategy by testing a granular lockdown system for Metro Manila that would last for 14 days and would only feature two quarantine classifications – enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and general community quarantine (GCQ).

The pilot run started on Sept. 16 and would last until Sept. 30.

The granular lockdowns are coupled with a 5-step alert system. The capital region’s 13 million people are under alert level 4 until Sept. 30.

Marcos urged the government to consider giving cash incentives through wage subsidies to entire firms and individual workers.

The former legislator also noted that while providing food packs helped, it would be best for firms to receive cash to pay for fixed operational costs such as water and electricity bills.

He also asked the Department of Finance to study the possibility of providing tax relief to ailing businesses since they would surely be incapable of paying taxes due to steep revenue losses.

He added that sudden closures caused by granular lockdowns merited additional aid on top of what the government was providing in its programs.

“That’s why I think we should give them breathing room. Hopefully we could give economic assistance and tax holiday or tax amnesty for our business,” Marcos added.

The national government is expected to roll out the P1.14-trillion National Employment Recovery Strategy – still under review – aimed at providing a subsidy of P8,000 per month to 1 million workers for a maximum of three months.

According to the Department of Trade and Industry, Micro Small Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) account for more than 99 percent of registered businesses and provide 5,380,815 jobs or 62.66 percent of the country’s total employment.

Meanwhile, local government units have not made any requests for the food packs which will be given to residents affected by the granular lockdown, Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said Tuesday.

Malaya was asked to comment on a report saying there was no assistance being disbursed to more than 3,000 families affected by the granular lockdown.

He said it was the Department of Social Welfare and Development that would provide the food packs to the LGUs upon the latter’s request.

“I was told by the DSWD that the LGUs have not made any requests yet to the DSWD but they already have 1,000 food packs ready for deployment,” Malaya told GMA News Online.

“The DSWD is ready to deploy anytime provided the request is made by the LGUs,” he added.

Malaya also clarified that there was no financial aid anymore as the national government already spent P11.2 billion last month in the National Capital Region alone; but he said it would be up to LGUs if they would provide cash assistance to their affected constituents.

The DSWD has prepositioned thousands of food packs that would be distributed to Metro Manila residents affected by granular lockdowns.

According to DSWD Assistant Secretary Glenda Relova, 1,000 food packs have been prepositioned each for Caloocan, La Piñas, Parañaque, Pateros, Mandaluyong, Manila, Marikina, Taguig and Valenzuela.

An affected family will receive three food packs in a week, she said.

Relova said under the guidelines of the new alert level system being pilot-tested in Metro Manila, the DSWD will provide assistance on the second week of the two-week granular lockdown, with the first week covered by the local government unit.

She added: “In case there is still a surge, or the granular lockdown is extended, the DSWD will continue to augment the assistance to the affected communities.”

Relova said the department had P1.3 billion worth of food packs “and non-food items” prepositioned for the pilot implementation of alert level system and granular lockdown in the NCR.