DOF seeks swift Congress OK of 2021 budget bill

Robie de Guzman   •   September 7, 2020   •   216

MANILA, Philippines – The Duterte administration’s economic team has urged Congress to quickly approve the proposed P4.5 trillion national budget for next year to ensure funding for government’s plans to battle novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a statement on Sunday, Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the swift enactment of the 2021 budget bill would help rebuild the economy and defeat the pandemic.

The House of Representatives’ appropriation committee started last week its deliberation on next year’s record high spending plan while the Senate finance panel is set to tackle the measure this week.

On top of the proposed 2021 General Appropriation Act, the administration’s economic managers are also urging lawmakers to approve several economic priority measures which aim to accelerate economic recovery and make support available for businesses, workers and families that were hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic-induced global crisis.

Dominguez reiterated that among the measures that require prompt congressional action are the proposed Financial Institutions’ Strategic Transfer (FIST) Act, the Government Financial Institutions’ Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery (GUIDE), and the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE).

The proposed FIST Act will allow banks to dispose of bad loans and non-performing assets (NPAs) through asset management companies, while the GUIDE bill seeks to allow state-run banks to form a special holding company that will infuse equity, with strict conditions, into strategically important companies facing insolvency.

The CREATE bill seeks to immediately lower the corporate income tax (CIT) rate from 30 to 25 percent once made effective and will enhance the flexibility and efficiency of the incentives system for businesses, Dominguez said.

“The swift enactment of CREATE, FIST, GUIDE and the 2021 budget will serve to accelerate our economic recovery. We should not delay providing urgent and necessary relief to our people,” he said.

The Duterte administration will also continue to work with the legislature in passing the remaining packages of the comprehensive tax reform program (CTRP) that will, among others, institute reforms in property valuation and in the taxation of the financial sector, the finance chief further stated.

He said economic recovery also rests on sustaining President Duterte’s signature program “Build, Build, Build,” as sound infrastructure investments provide the largest multiplier effect on the economy in the form of more jobs, increased consumption, and the generation of additional productive activities.

Dominguez said that unlike past crises when legislation and spending restored confidence in the economic sector, the current one caused by COVID-19 “cannot be ended with a knock-out punch until a safe and effective vaccine becomes readily available for mass distribution.”

Thus, he said, the government should have the fiscal stamina to endure the expected drawn-out battle against the pandemic.

“How a country’s economy performs during COVID-19 and how quickly it can bounce back once the crisis is over will depend on its economic resilience,” Dominguez said. “This is why we have been consistent with our approach: we will do what is necessary, but we will not be wasteful.”

CHED orders Isabela Colleges to explain conduct of face-to-face classes during pandemic

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has issued a show-cause order to Isabela Colleges for holding face-to-face classes amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

CHED chairperson Prospero De Vera III said the college has been ordered to stop its in-person meetings as this clearly violates the guidelines being implemented by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID).

The order was issued following a report that a student tested positive for COVID-19 and that he attended an on-campus orientation in August for its post-Baccalaureate students.

De Vera said city health officials were tracing up to 45 contacts of the said student.

Isabela Colleges was given ten days to explain why no sanctions should be imposed on its officials for their failure to comply with CHED advisories and the IATF guidelines. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

DepEd plans to dispense with periodical exams amid pandemic

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Education (DepEd) is planning to do away with periodical exams to avoid cheating during the conduct of blended learning amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

DepEd Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio said that instead of holding periodical exams, they will focus on written outputs and performance tasks for students learning from their homes.

“While we are trying to also find ways making sure na yung distance cheating is avoided ang pinakauna yata ay talagang makaunawa ang lahat na hindi dapat mahalaga yung mataas na score mas mahalaga yung natutuhan ng bata,” he said.

DepEd earlier appealed to parents and guardians of students to help the department reinforce the value of honesty among students since teachers don’t see them in person.

“Kung sa bahay ay gusto mo maging honest yung anak eh katulong ka sa paggawa ng dishonest output that will be very detrimental into our effrots in shaping our good filipinos, paalala ito pagkakataon natin ang home base learning na ito para turuan ang mga bata ng tamang values,” San Antonio said.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Association of Private Schools Administrators (FAPSA) expressed support for DepEd’s move and assured that they will direct their members to follow the learning assessment scheme.

“Ang pagkukunan ng grade dyan pwede yung perfomance niya sa klase, it could be even oral pagka-grade 5 grade six up to high school lalo na sa senior high pwede na ang essay eh,” Eleazardo Kasilag, FAPSA’s president, said.

DepEd said the opening of classes for the upcoming school year will still push through as scheduled on October 5.

The department earlier reported that over 24 million students have so far enrolled and that around 800 schools have notified to halt operations this year due to the effects of the pandemic. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

Philippines, Japan ink 50-B yen standby loan deal for post-disaster efforts

Robie de Guzman   •   September 16, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines and Japan signed an agreement for a 50 billion yen (around P23.3 billion) standby loan which aims to quickly disburse funding support for the government’s response to national calamities or health emergency, the Department of Finance (DOF) said.

In a statement, the DOF said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Chief Representative Eigo Azukizawa signed the deal Tuesday on the second phase of the post-disaster standby loan (PDSL).

Under this agreement, the DOF said the disbursement of the standby loan to the Philippines will be triggered by either of the following circumstances: the declaration of a state of calamity; or the declaration of a state of public health emergency.

In the case of the current COVID-19 pandemic or any other public health emergencies, the imposition of an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or its equivalent in the National Capital Region (NCR) or in any other highly urbanized area in the country will also trigger the disbursement of the loan, it added.

“The ongoing pandemic underscores the need to further improve our policy and institutional framework for disaster risk reduction and management. It likewise emphasizes the need to build our financial resilience against disasters and similar emergencies,” Dominguez said during the ceremonial signing of the loan deal at the DOF office in Manila.

The loan will be available for quick disbursement in tranches within three years once it is declared effective. It may be extended for an additional three-year period for up to four times.

The financing package under PDSL carries a fixed interest rate of 0.01 percent with a maturity of 40 years, inclusive of a 10-year grace period.

Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Koji Haneda welcomed the agreement, saying that “as a calamity prone country like the Philippines, Japan fully understands the value of safeguarding lives, infrastructure and livelihood.”

The signing of this loan accord comes after a separate 50-billion yen loan inked by both countries in July for the COVID-19 Crisis Response Emergency Support Loan, which aims to assist the Philippine government’s efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease and aid Filipinos most affected by the pandemic.

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