• Melo Acuna

US$1.5 billion loan approved

Asian Development Bank approves US$1.5 billion loan to the Philippine government

MANILA – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a US$1.5 billion loan to the Philippines to fund its novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response program and boost the country’s health care system to fight the pandemic.

“This assistance is our largest budget support loan to the Philippines ever and reflects our strong commitment to providing cornerstone assistance swiftly and effectively to help the country mitigate the pandemic’s devastating impact on Filipinos, particularly the poor and vulnerable, including women,” said ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa.

The ADB president said with the global pandemic, the most vulnerable are developing countries, especially those with densely populated cities including the Philippines. He said the Philippine government’s actions are commendable in containing the spread of COVID-19 which included the scaling up of its health response, enforcing an enhanced community quarantine in Luzon to save lives, and providing subsidy programs to affected segments of population.

According to the ADB statement released at midday today, the Philippines was among the first set of countries to implement strict social distancing measures through its enhanced community quarantine when it temporarily closed schools, government and private businesses and closing the borders on the whole of Luzon beginning March 16. Luzon region accounts for 50% of the country’s total population and generates more than 70% of gross domestic product. These measures have been effective in slowing the spread of the disease in the local community.

“We thank the ADB under the leadership of President Masatsugu Asakawa for swiftly responding to the Philippines’ call for funding support in this time of crisis. We thank the bank as well for streamlining its operations to quickly deliver its assistance and for tripling the size of its response package from US$6.5 billion to US$20 billion to help developing member countries combat COVID-19,” said Philippine Finance Secretary and ADB Governor Carlos G. Dominguez III.

ADB’s COVID-19 Active Response and Expenditure Support (CARES) Program will support the government’s measures to help its citizens overcome health, economic and social costs of the pandemic by financing the country’s COVID-19 response programs. Increased funding for social protection, especially for women who are primary household and family caregivers, small business relief assistance, and wider health measures to stop the spread of the COVID-19 in the country.

The government’s COVID-19 relief package includes carefully crafted and targeted support to Filipino families, including a P205 billion (US$4 billion) emergency subsidy program for 18 million families engaged in the informal sector and a P51 billion small business wage subsidy providing a lifeline to 3.4 million workers in the formal sector. These programs cover 85% of all Filipino families.

Earlier, ADB extended a US$5 million grant to deliver nutritious food baskets to up to 140,000 vulnerable households in Metro Manila and neighboring areas in partnership with the government and the private sector on March 18.

Last March13, ADB approved a US$3 million grant to help the Philippine government acquire emergency medical supplies and set up a new laboratory that will increase the country’s COVID-19 testing capacity by 3,000 per day. The new laboratory is expected to be fully functional by mid-May 2020. The ADB is preparing additional funding for social protection and health projects this month and May, this year. (Melo M. Acuña)

Informal settlers and women are part of the vulnerable sectors of Philippine society. (ADB Photo)

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