Higher infra, social services spending to fuel PH economy this year – DOF

Robie de Guzman   •   February 17, 2020   •   433

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Finance (DOF) on Monday expressed confidence that the country’s pace of economic growth will “dramatically increase” this year despite the challenges that arose at the onset of 2020 including the Taal Volcano eruption, the spread of African Swine Fever (ASF), and novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

In a statement, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said that higher state spending on infrastructure and social service, supported by a low inflation rate and an expansionary monetary policy, will allow the government to further fuel the country’s economic growth despite public health and other issues.

He said the ASF has been contained through the strict enforcement of biosecurity measures, anti-smuggling campaign, and heightened meat inspection efforts.

He added that concerned government agencies and local government units are also fast-tracking the release of assistance to affected farmers and fishers and the implementation of rehabilitation plans for areas affected by the volcano eruption in January.

As for COVID-19, Dominguez said the government continues to implement proactive measures to keep Filipinos safe from the deadly virus.

He, however, admitted that the threat of the disease would most likely have a significant impact on the tourism sector, “given the various levels of travel bans imposed by national governments and of voluntary decisions of airlines to cut flights to and from China.”

He added that the country’s exports to, and imports from, China might also be briefly affected due to “the temporary closures of factories in Chinese cities, which has been under lockdown in a bid by Chinese authorities to contain the virus.”

Although unexpected challenges may dampen growth, Dominguez believes that these would not be significant enough to alter this year’s economic target, especially now that the 2020 national budget has been passed by Congress on time.

The Finance chief also noted the passage of a special law that allows the government to continue using the unexpended project funds under the 2019 budget.

“These resources will provide the government the tools it needs to accelerate public spending to offset the effects of the fresh challenges to the domestic economy,” Dominguez said.

The Finance chief also said that recent developments in the Philippine economy, such as the government’s tax effort, will be amplified by the hoped-for passage into law this year of the remaining packages of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP), which, in turn, will help modernize taxation and produce a more business-friendly environment for investors.

Manufacturers, importers of essential goods to get incentives during COVID-19 quarantine

Robie de Guzman   •   April 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Finance (DOF) said incentives have been granted to manufacturers and importers of essential products and equipment amid the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Through Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) No. 20-02, series of 2020 issued on April 1, the DTI and DOF said the manufacture and importation of critical goods and equipment shall be exempt from import duties, taxes and other fees.

“We need to ensure that the disruptions in the supply chain are minimized, as well as give enterprises a reprieve from commonly imposed taxes,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said in a statement.

Under Republic Act No. 11469, otherwise known as “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act,” the DTI and DOF are authorized to liberalize the grant of incentives for the manufacture and importation of critical equipment or supplies.

In order to achieve this, the two agencies shall ensure the availability of essential goods and require businesses to prioritize contracts, subject to fair and reasonable terms, for materials and services needed by the government in its campaign against the COVID-19.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, for his part, assured the government will help manufacturers, especially those working with medical institutions, in procuring or producing essential goods at reduced costs by providing them with tax breaks during this global health crisis.

“This is the least the Duterte administration could do to help our healthcare front-liners win the battle against COVID-19 by ensuring their access to personal protective equipment (PPEs) and other necessities to protect themselves and to medicines and medical supplies to treat their patients,” he said.

Lopez also mentioned that this was the government’s way of showing gratitude for the cooperation of enterprises despite the restricted movement and conditions imposed during the quarantine period.

The circular covers the production and manufacture of medicines identified as critical by the Department of Health (DOH), medical equipment and devices, personal protective equipment, surgical equipment and supplies, as well as laboratory equipment and its reagents.

It likewise covers raw materials and packaging materials exclusively used for the production of the above-mentioned products.

Among the provisions of the RA 11469 is for the government to collaborate with the private sector and other stakeholders to deliver these measures and programs quickly and efficiently.

Dominguez assured that the Bureau of Customs (BOC) will be able to assist in the timely release of the imports of raw materials, packaging, and articles required in the supply chain of production.

“We urge our partners in the private sector for their continued understanding on the importance of the unimpeded production and importation of these essential products,” Lopez said.

“We thank these manufacturers, institutions, and hospitals that continue to innovate and produce essential goods to help save Filipino lives in the face of the pandemic,” Dominguez said.

The circular shall remain in effect only during the effectivity of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

Spain still faces difficult time despite hopeful signs

UNTV News   •   April 3, 2020

Spain still faces a difficult time in curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), despite hopeful signs, the country’s Health Minister Salvador Illa said.

Spain’s health ministry reported on Thursday afternoon that the coronavirus cases in the country reached 110,238 and the death toll hit 10,003.

Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa said despite the grim figures, the curve of contagion has shown signs of reaching the peak. But he also warned of uneasy time in the coming weeks.

To avoid medical system breakdown, Spain has to further reduce hospitalized patients and to ensure that all symptomatic residents can get tested and treated.

The Spanish government is beefing up efforts to purchase and distribute medical supplies. Meanwhile, the country is also speeding up the production of equipment such as respirators.

Spain’s deputy health emergency chief Maria Jose Sierra said that the crux for Spain’s epidemic control is its beds in intensive care units (ICU).

Currently, Spain has about 6,000 ICU beds, but has nearly 7,000 COVID-19 patients.

“Spain has 10 ICU beds for every 100,000 people, while Germany has 29 ICU beds for every 100,000 people and Italy has 13 ICU beds for every 100,000 people. This may be one of the factors that affect the death rate,” said Carlos Chaccour, a medical investigator from Barcelona Institute for Global Health, ISGlobal. (Reuters)

Finance Dep’t. issues rules on 30-day extension for loan payments due within Luzon quarantine

Robie de Guzman   •   April 1, 2020

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Finance (DOF) on Wednesday, April 1 issued the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the mandated 30-day grace period for the payment of all loans falling due within the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III signed the IRR which serves as the guidelines for the implementation of Section 4(aa) of Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Law.

Dominguez said this provision covers banks, quasi-banks, non-stock savings and loan associations, credit card issuers and pawnshops, other credit granting financial institutions under the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Securities and Exchange Commission and Cooperative Development Authority, both public and private including the Government Service Insurance System, Social Security System, and Pag-IBIG Fund.

Under the Bayanihan law, these institutions are mandated to “implement a 30-day grace period for all loans with principal and/or interest falling due within the ECQ Period without incurring interest on interest, penalties, fees and other charges.”

All lenders are likewise prohibited from requiring their clients to waive the application of the measure’s provisions.

“No waiver previously executed by borrowers covering payments falling due during the ECQ Period shall be valid. Nonetheless, the grant of grace period by the above-mentioned Covered Institutions shall not preclude the borrowers from paying their obligations as they fall due during the period of ECQ should they so desire,” the IRR added.

The mandatory extension also applies to each of the multiple loans of borrowers with the principal and/or interest falling due within the quarantine period.

Under Section 5.01 of the IRR, borrowers whose loans fall due within the said period are spared from paying an additional documentary stamp tax (DST) as a consequence of the relief granted. Also, no DST shall be imposed on “credit extensions and credit restructuring, micro-lending including those obtained from pawnshops and extensions thereof during the ECQ period.”

The Luzon enhanced community quarantine covers the period from March 17 to April 12, based on the Proclamation No. 929 issued by President Rodrigo Duterte last March 16.

The initial 30-day grace period shall automatically be extended if the ECQ period is extended by the president pursuant to his emergency powers under the Bayanihan law, the IRR also stated.

“All covered Institutions shall not charge or apply interest on interest, fees, and charges during the 30-day grace period to future payments/amortizations of the individuals, households, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and corporate borrowers,” the rules said.

As for the accrued interest for the 30-day grace period, this may be paid by the borrower on a staggered basis over the remaining life of the loan.

“Nonetheless, this shall not preclude the borrower from paying the accrued interest in full on the new date following the application of the 30-day grace period or extended grace period, as the case may be,” the IRR stated.

Violators of the IRR provisions shall be subject to the appropriate penalties under RA 11469, as well as existing laws, rules, and regulations, the DOF said.

The department said the implementing rules shall take effect immediately upon publication.

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