President Duterte says he’s prepared to sell government assets to fund fight vs COVID-19
MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte said he is prepared to sell government assets including the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Philippine International Convention Center and prime real estate should the national coffers run dry just to help the COVID-19 affected sectors across the country.
In a televised address with Cabinet officials shortly before dawn today, President Duterte said he appreciates assurances from Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III that the country’s economy still remains afloat.
“When our coffers run dry, I am willing to sell government properties. These are the Cultural Center of the Philippines, PICC and real estate,” he said. He explained when he fails to acquire more funds “and we are about to sink, and really sink, I will sell all government assets and help the people.”
Earlier during the same meeting, Finance Secretary Dominguez said COVID-19 hit the country’s economy “in a very hard way.”
“Truth is our estimated GDP growth will be zero or minus one percent. The temporary unemployment will be 1.2 million workers, but this is in comparison with the lowest unemployment rate ever achieved in the Philippines,” Secretary Dominguez said during the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) meeting at Malacañang Palace presided by President Duterte himself.
Secretary Dominguez said the country’s budget deficit will increase from 3.2 percent to 5.3 percent meaning the government will be spending more than what it could collect from taxes and revenues.
“We are spending more in order to save the people and make sure they have food on the table during this time,” the Finance secretary added as he projected the Debt to GDP ratio to increase from 41% to 47% though he considers it “still very low” compared to other neighbors in the region.
The Finance secretary said they have a program “to continuously borrow money” in order to support the country’s economy and the government’s fight against COVID-19.
“We will borrow US$5.6 billion from (Manila-based) Asian Development Bank and World Bank. If the amount is still insufficient, we will go to the commercial market as we have a good credit rating of BBB+, the higher ever,” Secretary Dominguez said.
In his report to the IATF-EID meeting, Secretary Dominguez said while the government has the money to fund subsidies for displaced workers and poor families, “we have to realize the money’s not unlimited.” He vowed the government under President Duterte will spend the money correctly and efficiently.
As of 4:00 P.M. Wednesday, the Department of Health reported 3,870 COVID-19 positive cases with 96 recoveries and 182 fatalities including 21 medical doctors who died due to the novel corona virus. (Melo M. Acuña)
President Rodrigo Duterte in his televised address shortly before dawn today. (Screen grab from RTVM/PCOO)