PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, July 27, 2020, called on lessors to show fairness and compassion to their tenants, especially small businesses that have been hit hard by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
"Nananawagan po ako sa ating mga lessors... malasakit at bayanihan po sana ang pairalin natin ngayon. This is not the time to drive away lessees," Duterte said in his fifth State of the Nation Address.
"During normal times they were the primary source of your income stream. Now it's time to be fair and compassionate. Come up with an amenable arrangement with your tenants. 'Wag po natin silang ipagtabuyan, tanggalin ang tubig, kuryente at bubong," he added.
Duterte appealed to commercial establishments to provide grace periods to their renters to help them recover from losses due to the pandemic.
The President also tapped the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) and the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) to look for possible assistance that they may bestow to the overseas Filipino workers (OFW) and their families who were affected by the pandemic.
He said Tesda may come up with a special training programs to “retool” the OFWs, who were forced to go back home after losing their jobs due to the pandemic, and make it easier for them to find employment opportunities in the country.
Duterte said the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry can also provide agricultural and entrepreneurial business opportunities for the OFWs.
He also called on the government financial institutions to provide low-interest loans to the embattled OFWs.
Duterte said the government is keen on providing aid to the estimated 10,000 repatriated OFWs.
"Mga kababayan ko na naghirap sa ibang bansa, nandito na ang inyong gobyerno para tulungan kayo at inyong pamilya lalo na sa panahong ito," he said.
To help boost the economy, Duterte appealed to Filipinos to prioritize visits to local tourist destinations when situation goes back to normal.
He urged Congress to establish an authority which will be tasked to ensure that the rehabilitation in Boracay Island is sustained.
"For the rest of my term I hope to see concerted efforts in protecting the environment. The rehabilitation of Boracay island showcased our reserve to safeguard the environment," Duterte said.
"Boracay is doing well because of its scenery. If it's only a coconut and white sand and water, wala 'yan. Pero you add the visitors there then it becomes a very tempting destination," he added.
He also asked the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to provide regulatory relief to MSMEs and allow loan payment extensions, without incurring penalties and charges.
“We pump-primed the recovery and rehabilitation of MSMEs. The DTI, through the Small Business Corporation, set up the P1-billion Covid-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises or Cares Program to provide zero-interest loans for MSMEs affected by the pandemic,” he said.
As of July 10, 2020, over 2,600 loan applications worth P182.5 million have been approved.
“We are optimistic that this initiative will help our MSMEs stabilize and recover from their losses,” he added.
Earlier, the Department of Trade and Industry said 525,000 or 52.66 percent of MSMEs in the country opted to close down their businesses due to the losses incurred during the lockdown.
Duterte also directed the DTI to boost consumer protection with the rise of e-commerce which makes them prone to various risks related to security, data privacy, and misrepresentation.
“We must patrol the country’s cyberspace and enforce online consumer and data protection and privacy laws. We must run after online scammers and those undermining the people’s trust in online transactions. We must continue to protect Filipinos in the new normal and remind the world that we are responsible stewards of data. I am committed to protect both the physical and digital lives of our law-abiding countrymen,” he said.
Duterte also reiterated his call on the government agencies to go digital and make queuing a “thing in the past.”
“Panahon na para mawala na ang pila para mapagsilbihan ang gobyerno nang walang kahirapan para sa tao. The DILG, DBM, and the ARTA, along with all agencies and instrumentalities of government, are hereby directed to make [all] possible services available online,” he said.
“We need to adjust to and adopt a paper-less type business and work performance. We need e-governance [to provide] our people with the services they need [from] the comfort of their homes or workplaces. It will enable our bureaucracy to better transition into in the 'new normal' and cut or minimize red tape,” he added.
The President said opening up the economy to “pre-Covid-19 levels” will not happen soon as infections continue to increase.
“To open up the economy to pre-COVID-19 levels at this time is not an option because whatever good it can produce will only be gobbled up or be outweighed by the bad it will generate,” he said.
“Sometimes, haste makes waste. The recent upsurge of infections when we opened little windows of resumption of business is proof of that,” he added. (SunStar Philippines)