The country’s largest business organization is pushing for more stimulus packages that will provide loans to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to help them recover from the pandemic as mobility restrictions ease and the economy further reopens.
George Barcelon, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), said the MSMEs, accounting for 99.6 percent of the total establishments and employing 60 percent of the country’s total employment, are the most affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
“We see the inequality that after the Covid-19 is the smaller guys are even more marginalized. We can see that many of them are brick-and-mortar businesses and they have to learn to shift quickly to the e-platform and they also suffer from different constraints in the supply chain. And most of all, what they need is really financial assistance,” he said at a virtual forum on competition in developing countries.
Barcelon said the government has been providing assistance to Covid-19-affected companies through various schemes, such as the zero interest loan available through the Small Business Corporation (SBCorp).
But he said while SBCorp’s loan program has benefited many PCCI members, especially the MSMEs in their recovery efforts, it is still “never enough because the severity of the lockdown is just too much, especially (for) the micro (businesses) to last.”
Barcelon said the Department of Finance (DOF) also implemented the Small Business Wage Subsidy Program (SBWS) and the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) Covid-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) which all provided financial aid to both formal and informal sectors.
Jointly implemented by the DOF, Bureau of Internal Revenue and Social Security System, the SBWS provided a wage subsidy of P5,000 to P8,000 per eligible small business employees affected by the enhanced community quarantine implemented to contain the spread of Covid-19. The program was launched on April 16, 2020.
CAMP, on the other hand, is a safety net program that provides one-time financial assistance to affected workers in the formal sector due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the implementation of tight quarantine restrictions in various areas in the country.
Barcelon, also chairman of the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (PHILEXPORT), said the DOF has also provided support to businesses wherein the banks are persuaded to be more lenient in the non-performing loans.
“Despite these programs, we still need to do a lot more for the long term and stimulus packages to help the micro and small establishments,” he said, noting that additional support for these firms is important especially as the economy further reopens with infections tapering off.
Barcelon considered extending more credits among the key drivers of MSMEs recovery this year and in the short term.
He said another area which the government and the private sector must really work on is the mobility issue.
“Especially for the small enterprises, they don’t have their own transport facilities, they don’t have their trucks and everything,they need public transportation. And the government has been quite strict in the mobility aspect and many of the micro and small (businesses) have been badly affected,” he added.
Further, Barcelon called for more affordable Covid-19 test kits “We know very well (that) those people who are vaccinated can still be infected and those who are not vaccinated of course when they get infected, the severity of the sickness could be more detrimental,” he said.
“But having said that, what is important for us is to take into the general populist to be part of the solutions. Make them, allow them to test themselves at the lower level, at the barangay level, wherein they can do random tests. Since we are opening up, we need to take the cautions that we can catch any surges that may happen,” he added.