Philippines: Businesses seek COVID-19 relief package

Deferred tax payments, salary recomputation

MANILA, Philippines — Amid a Luzon-wide work stoppage and supply disruptions, the country’s largest business group is urging government to grant relief measures to industries and enterprises.

The relief package would include allowing delayed tax payments without penalties and reconsidering the computation of salaries for the upcoming April 9 holiday to help cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 pandemic.

While the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) supports the government’s aim to contain the spread of COVID-19, the group is recommending measures to help businesses stay afloat as the community quarantine has brought the economy to a standstill.

“If large enterprises are already reeling, the impact is magnified among micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). It is in this regard that PCCI submits the following recommendations with the view of granting relief from the constraints and uncertainties imposed on livelihood, mobility and health,” the PCCI said.

Among the recommendations of the PCCI is for the Bureau of Internal Revenue to allow tax payments after the April 15 deadline, with penalties and interest charges waived for delayed tax remittances.

In consideration of the present situation where businesses are experiencing losses, PCCI is proposing that government reconsider the holiday pay for workers for April 9, Holy Thursday, which is also Araw ng Kagitingan.

As the salary computation for the said date would total 300 percent for a business in operation, and 200 percent for a closed establishment, PCCI is suggesting that it be reduced to 200 percent if the business is in operation, and 100 percent if closed.

PCCI said it also wants the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to encourage banks to declare a moratorium on loan amortizations falling due within six months from the occurrence of COVID-19 for business, consumer and home loans.

To ensure stable supply of food and other basic goods, PCCI said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) should strictly enforce price controls.

In addition, PCCI recommends the declaration by the Department of Agriculture of Mindanao as a separate food quarantine area to allow the unhampered delivery of food for the entire country, creation of a food logistics backbone from General Santos to Cebu City and Tagbilaran City via Davao and Bukidnon, and putting up cold storage in key points.

PCCI said government should also allow continued operations of vital industries like power, water, transport and telecommunications.

To ensure continued internet services, the group is calling on the Department of Information and Communications Technology to enjoin telcos to remove all data capping until the crisis is over.

To support affected enterprises, PCCI is recommending the use of the conditional cash transfer program to subsidize the micro and small businesses, and for DTI to establish a rehabilitation fund in the areas of technical assistance and special financing for working capital and equipment or machinery acquisition.

PCCI is also suggesting the DTI gets in touch with mall owners or lessors to waive rentals for MSMEs during the period of the closure order or if not, to grant a special arrangement.

As part of efforts to fight the spread of the virus, PCCI said government could consider utilizing the public infrastructure funds to immediately put up specialized COVID-19 monitoring and treatment facilities across the country.

The group said government could also create and fund a task force to be responsible for updating the data and maps of areas adversely affected by COVID-19 and the government resources deployed to curb its spread.

“Such data will be necessary for a more efficient and accurate modelling studies which will help the private sector direct its resources where it can be of most help in helping curb and eradicate COVID-19 as well as rehabilitate businesses and workers adversely affected by the current government countermeasures vs. COVID-19,” PCCI said.

Lastly, PCCI recommends the conduct of an aggressive campaign by local government units for the public to immediately adopt positive health habits such as personal hygiene, eating healthy food and boosting immunity to lessen risks of contracting the virus.

“PCCI appeals to the national government to immediately approve and implement the above measures to allow affected firms and households to cope with the adverse effects of COVID-19 and the fallout from countermeasures enforced by the national and local governments to curb its further spread,” the group said.