The Philippine government is eyeing a stimulus package worth 846 billion pesos ($16.7 billion) to enable a full economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the country's top economic managers said.
The recovery program now pending before the Philippine Congress also includes a cut in corporate income tax and modernization of the country's fiscal incentive systems, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez told a meeting of business sector executives Thursday, at which he was joined by other Cabinet members.
"The economy can no longer bear any delay in this reform. Now is the best time to do it," Dominguez said.
The finance chief called on the business sector to urge lawmakers to pass these reforms so that the small, medium and big companies can rebound from this global pandemic.
To revive the local economy, the government is also pursuing its flagship infrastructure program called Build, Build, Build that includes, among others, extension of the Manila Light Rail Transit System Line 2, funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
Two other big-ticket legacy projects, the North-South Commuter Railway and the Metro Manila Subway project also supported by Japan's official development assistance, will finally commence this year, according to Vince Dizon, presidential adviser for flagship programs and projects.
The government doubled spending to 461.7 billion pesos in April compared with the same period last year for its various COVID-19 response programs. Revenues, however, fell by 39.17 percent from 308.7 billion pesos in April last year to 187.8 billion pesos last month.
Total collections by the Bureau of Internal Revenue from Jan. 1 to April 30 dipped down to 527.41 billion pesos, or 25.4 percent below last year's collection over the same period.
Despite the decreased revenue, Dominguez said the Philippines remains "financially able" to meet the unexpected challenges of the pandemic. It also has practiced fiscal discipline and exercised prudence in state spending, he added.
"We expect the economy will recover more strongly once fiscal and monetary stimuli gain traction, and workers and firms resume operations," central bank governor Benjamin Diokno told the forum, which was organized by the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines and Management Association of the Philippines.
During the same forum, Socioeconomic Planning Acting Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua presented the "Philippine Progreso" or Philippine Program for Recovery with Equity and Solidarity, which aims to "once and for all bring the country on a sure and better path of prosperity where no one is left behind."