MANILA - Sen. Imee Marcos on Wednesday urged the Finance department to borrow some P440 billion from international lenders to bolster the government's emergency cash aid for the poor program during the coronavirus lockdown in Luzon.
Since March, Marcos - who chairs the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs - has been advising the Department of Finance (DOF) to borrow billions of pesos as the government can still manage a debt ceiling of "5.4 percent from the present 3.2-percent level."
"Hindi economic target ang dapat natin sagipin ngayon kundi buhay ng tao. Bakit kasi nagkukuripot ang DOF kung marami naman ang pwedeng pagkunan ng pondo?" Marcos said in a statement.
The executive branch earlier said that some P275 billion in the present budget may be used to fund a 2-month cash allowance for 18 million families identified as the "poorest of the poor."
Marcos said the amount may not be enough since the lockdown of the Philippines' most populated island may be extended beyond April 30 as the government's mass testing program has yet to begin.
"Ngayong Abril pa lang natin malalaman kung ano ang totoong sitwasyon, lalo na ang mga kasong hindi naitala dahil sa dating kakulangan ng mga test kit," the senator said.
"Hindi imposible na aabot ng May or June ang lockdown para sa kapakanan ng lahat," she said.
Under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, President Rodrigo Duterte may reallocate funds from the 2019 and 2020 national budgets provided that the money will be used in the government's coronavirus response projects.
While government-owned and controlled corporations may cover most of the P200-billion needed for the poor's cash aid, Duterte has instructed Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez to find other sources of funds as middle-class workers begin to appeal for financial assistance from the government.
Last month, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved a $3-million grant for the Philippines to procure emergency medical supplies and health care services needed in containing the spread of COVID-19.
The grant is equivalent roughly to P153.85 million.
The Philippines also secured a $100-million (P5.05 billion) loan from the World Bank to boost the country's fight against the global pandemic, which originated from Wuhan, China.