Philippine Congress Approves $3.4 Billion Pandemic Relief

The Philippines’ House of Representatives on Monday approved the final version of a 165.5 billion-peso ($3.4 billion) pandemic relief bill that would provide subsidies to the unemployed, loans to businesses and payment deferral for borrowers.

The measure, which would also extend President Rodrigo Duterte’s authority to refocus funds in this year’s 4.1 trillion-peso budget, will be sent to him for signature after the Senate’s approval last week.

“Our biggest problem is that we don’t have money. The economy is on a halt,” Duterte said in a briefing televised Tuesday, adding that the government needs to make use of the budget wisely. “Don’t worry, all the money spent in our fight against Covid will be accounted for.”

The pandemic relief measure will also provide funds to hire more emergency health workers and at least 50,000 contact tracers as the country battles the largest coronavirus outbreak in Southeast Asia.

About 40.5 billion pesos would be spent on health programs, while 55 billion pesos would go to government financial institutions as fresh capital, according to Senate finance committee chairman Sonny Angara.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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