Gov’t urged to grant incentives, not taxes to online sellers

Robie de Guzman   •   June 22, 2020   •   347

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Monday called on the government to extend fresh capital and other financial assistance, instead of implementing “untimely” new taxes to online entrepreneurs amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a statement, Gatchalian said online sellers should be covered by the microfinancing program of the Small Business Corporation (SB Corp.) under the Department of Trade and Industry to help them grow their business and recover from the economic effects of the pandemic.

The senator noted that DTI’s SB Corp. has a P1 billion Enterprise Rehabilitation Financing facility under the Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso (Covid19 P3-ERF) to support micro and small businesses affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

The microfinancing program offers a minimal interest rate of not more than 2.5% per month with no collateral requirement.

Micro enterprises with asset size of not more than PhP3 million may borrow PhP10,000 up to PhP200,000 while small enterprises with asset size of not more than PhP10 million may borrow a higher loan amount but will not exceed PhP500,000.

“Ang DTI ay dapat magbigay pa nga ng puhunan sa mga Pilipino na nawalan ng trabaho at gustong makaahon sa kahirapan sa pamamagitan ng pagnenegosyo sa online. Sa ganitong panahon ng pandemya, mas magandang nasa tahanan lang sila at nag-nenegosyo. Nabibigyan pa nila ng trabaho ang mga delivery service riders.” Gatchalian said.

“Hindi lang basta ayuda ang hinihingi ng mga negosyanteng ito. Ang hinihingi nila ay malaya silang bigyan ng oportunidad na makapag-negosyo para may kita sila,” he added.

Gatchalian, vice chairman of the Senate committee on economic affairs, issued the statement following Bureau of Internal Revenue’s (BIR) move to require online sellers to register their business until July 31, and pay taxes if they are earning higher than P250,000 a year.

The lawmaker believes that registering businesses with the BIR is ineffective since its system requires an applicant’s physical presence at this time when people are still being restricted from leaving their homes.

“Nakita ko na hindi rin handa ang ating pamahalaan na buwisan ang ating mga maliliit na negosyante dahil yung ultimong pagre-rehistro ay hindi pa sila handa kaya huwag na nating ipilit sa ganitong panahon ng pandemya, dahil hindi lang marami ang naghihirap kundi marami rin ang natatakot na lumabas ng kanilang bahay,” he stressed.

Aside from providing capital, Gatchalian also urged the DTI to make use of the Philippine Innovation Law to enhance the competitiveness of these online sellers.

The law aims to harness innovation efforts to help the poor, the marginalized, and MSMEs to be a part of the domestic and global supply chain.

Gatchalian pushes for business loan program to curb joblessness amid pandemic

Robie de Guzman   •   July 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Wednesday called on the government to carry out a subsidy program that will help curb the rising unemployment rate in the country brought about by the ongoing novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Gatchalian, the vice chairman of the Senate committee on economic affairs, suggested for the government to adopt a subsidy program similar to the Paycheck Protection program of the United States to prevent further lay-offs amid the public health crisis.

He said the Paycheck Protection Program is designed to provide incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.

Under this setup, business owners can get full loan forgiveness as an incentive as long as the funds are used for eligible expenses.

This way, the company gets to retain its employees while maintaining its operations.

Gatchalian believes that if this program will be included in the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, dubbed as the Bayanihan Law 2, it will significantly help employees and companies.

“Marami talagang kumpanya na nagda-downsize at sigurado akong mas marami pa ang mawawalan ng trabaho. Tiyak babalik din sila sa gobyerno, sa LGU o sa national government. Hindi na yan kakayanin ng gobyerno. Babalik at babalik sila sa gobyerno para humingi ng suporta,” he said.

“A Paycheck Protection Program-like subsidy will hit two birds with one stone. You secure the tenure of employees and at the same time you generate the economic side,” he added.

The government has implemented the Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) program, which provides a P5,000 to P8,000 wage subsidy to employees through the Social Security System (SSS).

But Gatchalian pointed out that this one-time subsidy does not provide long-term support to employees.

The senator said many Filipinos have lost their jobs after companies opted to downsize their operations to trim their losses as they weather the economic impact of the pandemic.

Citing a report from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Gatchalian noted that 7.3 million Filipinos are unemployed as of April 2020, an all-time high unemployment rate.

The lawmaker also warned of uncertain labor market recovery after a study by the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) revealed a 14% drop in global working hours during the second quarter of 2020, equivalent to the loss of 400 million full-time jobs, based on a 48-hour working week.

The same ILO study projects a decrease in working hours of 4.9% in the second half of the year which is equivalent to the loss of 140 million full-time jobs.

Gatchalian said there is a need for the government to prioritize the preservation of jobs in the country, and it will need an estimated P301 billion to create direct and indirect jobs for those impacted by the COVID-19-induced economic crisis for the rest of the year.

“The government has been calling for Filipinos to help spur the economy by spending more and taking advantage of record-low interest rates. But how can Juan dela Cruz think of spending his hard-earned cash during this crisis when he isn’t sure whether he’d be able to keep his job the following day,” he said.

That’s why I implore the government to prioritize the preservation of jobs of our kababayan so that they’ll be able to contribute in reviving our economy back,” he added.

DTI lifts quantity restrictions on alcohol, facemasks, other essential items

Marje Pelayo   •   June 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has lifted the quantity restrictions on essential items such as alcohol and facemasks after months of strict community quarantine when the incidence of hoarding and profiteering was rampant.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the limits were lifted after the Department managed a healthy inventory of supplies. 

“Now we have an abundant supply of masks, and that’s the reason why just recently, about two days ago we are removing these limits in purchases,” he said. 

“We have also increased the limits, let’s say, on mask purchases to one box of 50. Dati ‘yan five pieces lang [Previously, it was limited to five pieces only],” he added.

Currently, each box of 50 pieces of surgical mask costs around P300 to P500 while N95 masks cost around P400 to P500 per 10 pieces in Bambang, Manila.

Disinfecting alcohol, meanwhile, slightly increased in prices by P10 with each bottle now ranging from P85 to P500, depending on the volume.

Aside from medical supplies, the DTI also lifted the caps imposed for the sale and purchase of other basic commodities, such as canned sardines, instant noodles, canned and powdered milk, instant coffee, bread loaf, detergent soap, toothpaste, canned pork, canned beef, cooking oil, soy sauce, vinegar, fish sauce, and dried fish. MNP (with details from Joan Nano)

DTI probes reports on alleged abuse of PWD discount cards

Aileen Cerrudo   •   June 23, 2020

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will investigate the reports of alleged misuse of Persons with Disability (PWD) identification cards.

A photo circulated on social media last 20 June 2020 showing a photo of a family from Quezon City with all members supposedly visually impaired and one with psychosocial disability.

“Abuse of privilege in any law ruins the spirit behind it. Such a discount is solely meant for actual persons with disabilities. DTI, through the Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau (FTEB), is currently investigating the matter,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said.

He also emphasized that such corruption is not tolerated and must immediately be reported to the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC).

The department said it is also ready to file charges against individuals proven to have fake PWD ID cards.

“Especially in this time of crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, people should not be abusing their PWD ID cards since many restaurant owners are also facing difficulty in keeping their businesses afloat,” he said. AAC

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