A broad-based economic stimulus plan such as the 10K Ayuda Bill will be more effective in restoring the livelihoods of Filipinos than targeting specific economic sectors for government assistance, according to former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.
“Ang problema nga sa targeted (approach), are we ready to target? Madaling mag-target kapag nagkaroon ng problema sa isang lugar. Pero ngayon na panahon ng pandemic, sabay-sabay eh. So I don’t really recommend yung targeted,” Cayetano said.
(The problem with a targeted approach is are we ready to target? It’s easy to target if a problem arises in a specific location. But now amid the pandemic, there are problems everywhere all at the same time. So I don’t really recommend a targeted approach.)
He said the government should instead provide direct cash assistance to all Filipino families and small businesses, which according to him would only require P200 billion or 4 percent of the proposed P5 trillion national budget for 2022.
“Bakit pa natin pinahihirapan pa yung ating sarili sa napakaraming paraan na makatulong sa tao, samantalang kapag binigyan mo sila ng diretso na cash, iikot ang pera (sa ekonomiya),” Cayetano said.
(Why are we making things difficult for ourselves by implementing many different ways of helping the people? If we just give them the cash directly, money will naturally circulate in the economy.)
The former House Speaker made the comments to reporters at the sidelines of a dialogue in Baguio City with strawberry farmers from La Trinidad, Benguet on Wednesday, November 3.
He and his allies in Congress have been campaigning since February 2021 for the passage of the 10K Ayuda Bill, which aims to provide a cash grant of P10,000 for every Filipino household to aid in the country’s economic recovery.
He also pointed out that a nationwide stimulus program will reach even the most isolated communities, allowing cash to circulate in all parts of the economy.
Cayetano said he is coming out with a “five-year-plan bill” in the next few weeks, part of which seeks to provide P10,000 cash grants to all small businesses in the country as well as low-interest loans to medium-sized enterprises.
“Kasama sa ating five-year-plan bill na we plan to file in the next two weeks is, one, magkaroon ng 50 to 70 billion na bawat small na negosyo may P10,000. Number two, yung medium, yung medyo mas malalaki, yung balewala sa kanila yung P10,000 sa kanilang puhunan, magkaroon ng facility ang Landbank at ibang government banks na they can borrow money, one year grace period, pero 10 years to pay na mababang interes,” Cayetano said.
(Included in our five-year-plan bill which we plan to file in the next two weeks is, one, set aside P50 to P70 billion for each small business to have P10,000. Number two, for medium-sized enterprises, those businesses for which P10,000 is loose change compared to their capital, we propose that Landbank and other government banks should provide a facility so that they can borrow money, with a year-long grace period and ten-year payment periods at low interest.)
The former House Speaker said the assistance programs currently being implemented by the trade and labor departments were commendable but do not go far enough.
In the proposed 2022 national budget, the government’s Sustainable Livelihood Program is expected to have a P4.9 billion endowment, while the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) Program will be allocated P21.0 billion.
“So merong ginagawa ang gobyerno, pero hindi pa rin extraordinary ang tulong samantalang ang problema ay extraordinary,” Cayetano said.
(So the government is taking action, but the action isn’t as extraordinary as the problems it faces.)
Focus on tourism
The former House Speaker said part of the reason for his dialogue with strawberry farmers in Benguet was the huge toll the pandemic and recent storms have wrought on their livelihoods as well as those who are dependent on tourism, such as bicycle rentals, horse jockeys and pony boys.
“Napakaraming nangangailangan ng tulong at isa naming tinitignan siyempre yung unang tinamaan nung pagsara ng mga establishments sa tourism. Like anywhere else in the country, tinamaan talaga ng pandemic,” Cayetano said.
(There are so many out there who need assistance, and among them are the people who were displaced by the closure of tourism establishments. Like anywhere else in the country, they were really hit hard by the pandemic.)
During the dialogue, Alice Rivera, president of the La Trinidad Strawberry Farmers Association, lamented that flooding brought by Tropical Storm Maring in October had severely affected the farmers in their town.
“Masaya na malungkot (kami), sir Alan, dahil itong nakaraan na bagyo, imbes na nakatanim tayo ng strawberry para sa December, sa ngayon wala po kasi sad to say nabaha kami,” Rivera said.
(We are happy but also sad, sir Alan, because due to the recent storm, instead of being able to plant strawberries for the December harvest, we won’t be able to because our fields were flooded.)
Rivera also reported that the drainage systems in and around the strawberry fields in La Trinidad, which are a major tourist attraction in the town, have yet to be fixed after sustaining major damage during the onslaught of Maring.
Cayetano pledged to assist in expediting the repairs and to help start a fundraising drive for the La Trinidad strawberry farmers’ association.
“We’ll get in touch with (Benguet legislative caretaker) Congressman Eric Yap, with of course the DPWH and the city hall (of La Trinidad), and we’ll try to really look for a long-term solution,” he said.