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Duterte eyes selling gov’t assets if COVID-19 response fund still not enough

In this April 3, 2020, photo, an image of the so-called “angel of death” holding a sign that reads “Stay At Home or Stay With Me” is displayed in Barangay Addition Hills in Mandaluyong City to remind people to stay at home as precatutionary measure against the new coronavirus.

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday he is looking at the possibility of selling government assets as a “last resort” to bankroll a massive response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Duterte’s remarks came as the government scrambles to raise funds through loans and by taking advantage of special powers granted by Congress to reallocate some items in the national budget.

"What is the endgame? If we run out of cash, I will sell all government properties," Duterte, whose speeches regularly feature exagerrations and hyperbole, said.

He then raised the possibility of selling the state-owned land where concert halls Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Philippine International Convention Center are on.

"If our sources run out and we are about to sink and really sink, I will sell all the assets of government and use the money to help the people," he added.

Government seeking P1.1-T in funds

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III told CNBC on Tuesday that the Duterte administration is eyeing to raise $23 billion — or P1.1 trillion — to avert the social and economic fallout of the coronavirus, which has infected a total of 3,870 in the country as of Wednesday afternoon.

Dominguez said the bulk of funding, which will be raised with the central bank, will go “to support the economy” while the rest will be used to fund programs for “the most vulnerable in our communities” and assist the country’s health workers.

However, he did not explain fully how the government plans to source cash for the programs.

With the increase in borrowing, Dominguez said the government “will probably increase” its debt ratio to “slightly over 46%” of gross domestic product by yearend from 41.5% last year. Debt-to-GDP measures how big of a burden liabilities are on the economy.

Commenting on Duterte’s plan to sell state assets if worse comes to worst, Senate President Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the president was just giving the public an assurance that he will pull out all the stops to fund the government’s war chest versus the health crisis.

“I do not think it will get to that point considering the serious ways we are undertaking to address the disease,” Sotto was quoted as saying in a report by GMA News.

Sotto is on the joint congressional oversight committee for the Bayanihan Act, the law that granted the president sweeping powers—including the power to reallocate funds in the 2020 national budget—to address the COVID-19 crisis.

Credit belongs to : www.philstar.ca


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