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PH Government has Set Aside P288B Funds to Battle the COVID-19 Outbreak

The Philippine government has set aside funds to battle the coronavirus outbreak until the end of May and has “a lot of headroom” to spend more if needed, said Secretary of Finance Carlos Dominguez.

The Philippine government has planned around P288 billion  ($5.7B) in funding or around 5 percent to 6 percent of its gross domestic product for health-care and economic efforts. Dominguez added that the Philippines is planning for a “bounce back” stimulus package to lift the economy out of the damage caused by the pandemic.

“Our original funding was really for two months, that is April and May. While we are not sure how long COVID-19 will last, we think that conservative estimates would be until around the end of May, so we are ready until the end of May,” he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, April 7, extended strict home quarantine measures on the island of Luzon, where the capital city of Manila is located, until the end of April. Duterte’s decision led several economists to slash their economic forecast for the Philippines. JPMorgan said in a Tuesday note that it downgraded the 2020 growth forecast for the Philippines to 0.9 percent from 2.1%.

Dominguez, however, wasn’t as optimistic.

“We are projecting zero to possibly 0.8 percent negative growth this year,” he said.

“Definitely, businesses are impacted, especially businesses in the tourism sector as well as the retail sector… our tax collection is definitely going to be a bit lower than our original target but again, as I said, these are things that we can finance,” he said.

The finance secretary explained that the president has the legislative authority to reallocate funds within the government budget to areas that require more money to combat the coronavirus outbreak. The government could also increase its borrowings from multilateral banks and the commercial market, he said.