MANILA, Philippines — A ranking congressman has called for the holding of special session of Congress for the enactment of measures that would enable the country to better recover from the economic impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis, including the record high unemployment rate.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, House ways and means committee chairman, is confident that the P1.3-trillion economic stimulus program under the proposed Accelerated Recovery and Intervention Stimulus for the Economy (ARISE) Act and the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) will help rebuild the economy.
He stressed that this is why there is need to pass the two urgent measures despite Congress adjourning its regular session sine die last Friday as he reiterated the call for a special session.
He explained that while the 17.7 percent unemployment rate or 7.3 million unemployed Filipinos is a very alarming sign that families are struggling, the government needs to be aggressive and immediately pass the key measures.
“As I told our economic managers, we will need to confront poverty now. We cannot let growth fall too far down because it leads to poverty, and poverty is intergenerational. If you don’t confront it now, you are amplifying the problem in the future,” Salceda pointed out.
“Make no mistake, growth can fall by as much as -5.5 percent full year GDP this year, if we don’t do enough and right now, with the way we are missing crucial deadlines with both the stimulus and CREATE, we have to do much catchup in July and August,” he explained.
Salceda said the economic slump needs to be addressed immediately before it becomes worse.
“If you don’t confront the problem now with a strong stimulus plan like ARISE, you will have to spend more to correct greater damage in the future. When confidence is the commodity in scarcity, you have to be quick, bold and decisive. Vacillation will hurt. Delays will hurt,” he argued.
“The fiscal deficit is not my biggest concern right now. As I told the economic managers, I am prepared to line up P100 billion per year in new revenue measures – as indeed I already have, often at great cost to my own popularity. The budget deficit is a much smaller consideration compared to our country’s deficit in confidence,” Salceda added.
For this reason, he reiterated his call for the President to call for a special session to pass and enact both ARISE and CREATE laws.
“We have to get both of these measures done now. I would, of course, prefer to have them approved for the President’s signature next week. But if we cannot, the best alternative is a special session,” he explained.
Under Article VI, Section 15 of the 1987 Constitution, the President may call for a special session at any time.
Salceda estimates that up to $12 billion in foreign investments have already been foregone due to the two-year delay in passing the CITIRA, which was approved by the Cabinet as early as January 2018. Cecille Suerte Felipe
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