Malacañang announced that some 3.4 million middle class workers in the formal sector, or those employed by small businesses or by micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), will benefit from a wage subsidy program that will be implemented by the Philippine government in light of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque confirmed that the Chief Executive had approved a wage subsidy program for the middle-class workers.

The Palace official said that apart from this new program, the Duterte Administration had provided some assistance to the middle class including the extension in the filing of taxes with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and a minimum 30-day grace period on the payment of loans and rentals.

However, with the extended Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), there are a number who cannot go back to their jobs and would need further assistance to put food on their tables. Thus, the government is looking at ways to further help the people in terms of subsidies and to find a way to gradually bring some businesses back.

“Hangad po ng Presidente ay tulong sa small and medium enterprises. [May] tatlo pong bagong packages na bigay ang ating gobyerno sa mga maliliit na mga negosyante. Unang-una po, iyong tinatawag na small business wage subsidy; pangalawa po, iyong guarantee sa small business loans; at pangatlo po iyong enhanced net operating loss carry over,” explained Secretary Roque.

According to the Department of Finance (DOF), eligible ECQ-affected workers will receive P5,000 to P8,000 for two months under the Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) program. The DOF added that mechanics and eligibility criteria under the SBWS will be announced this week.

Secretary Roque, in his first press briefing since rejoining the Duterte government, also clarified that those who have received P5,000 subsidy through the Covid-19 Adjusted Measures Program or CAMP of the Department of Labor and Employment will only be eligible for a one-month wage subsidy.

Aside from the SBWS, another program in the pipeline is the guarantee on small business loans, where the government will guarantee up to P60 billion of MSME loans for additional capital.

“Ang ginawa po ng ating gobyerno ay pinull po natin ang lahat ng guarantee funds na mayroon tayo ngayon ng sa ganoon po ay madaling makakuha ng loans ang ating mga small and medium enterprises,” Roque said.

The third package for the middle class is the enhanced net operating loss carry over for five years. “Ibig sabihin, iyong lugi po ng ating mga maliliit na negosyante dahil nga nagkaroon tayo ng ECQ ay pupuwede nilang ma-claim sa kanilang tax filings for a period of five years,” the Palace spokesman explained.

Roque also emphasized that the government was on top of the Covid-19 situation and is continuously finding a balance between the obligation of the state to care for the health of its citizens and the need to provide livelihood and employment opportunities.

“Hindi po tayo napakayamang bansa na kaya nating pakainin ang lahat indefinitely. Kaya humahanap po tayo ng balanse – ano iyong punto na hindi naman masasabi na naging pabaya ang gobyerno na pangalagaan ang kalusugan laban sa COVID-19 at iyong katunayan na kinakailangan naman magkaroon ng kabuhayan ang ating mga mamamayan,” Roque said. (