The Philippine government seeks to secure about $2 billion (almost P102 billion) in loans and grants from multilateral lenders to aid workers as well as empower the health sector, in which it will provide economic defense against the Covid-19 outbreak as a whole.
“We are currently in negotiations with multilateral agencies for $1 billion up to $2 billion in funding support for [COVID-19 response]. We have to realize—we are looking at a drop in revenues. So we have to cover that gap somehow so that we maintain our pace of spending. So we are talking to multilateral agencies at the moment to do that. We want to do it early because all the countries in the world are trying to do the same thing. I think we are a step ahead of the others at this point,” shared Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez in a Google Meet interview.
He said the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Washington-based World Bank, and the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) will be tapped for loans and grants. “They are also on skeletal force, but we are continuously working online with them. I believe that they see immediate need, and are also working fast,” Dominguez added.
The ADB had recently avail an initial $6.5-billion “rescue” package to its developing member-countries along with the Philippines. The World Bank had ramp up its “fast-track” financing package for COVID-19 to $14 billion.
The country was also in “continuous talks” with its bilateral development partners, but Dominguez pointed out that “they, too, are in lockdowns to one extent or the other, and they are also trying to address their domestic situations.”
He also said that the additional funds will be prioritized to “support the people who have lost their livelihoods, and to increase our capacity to combat the virus and protect our front-liners.”
“Our main concern now is no longer the credit rating agencies’ opinion of us, but the survival of our people—the support to those whose livelihood are affected, and, of course, supporting our general economy to be ready for the inevitable return to normalcy,” he related.
“We are like in a battle. In the first part of the battle, we must take care of the essentials, and then as the battle develops we will take a look at the damage to the economy. And therefore that’s the time when we will plan on what we are going to do for the stimulus program. But now, I think we are still in the assessment stage. We don’t know exactly the total damage, but there is damage. So we’ll attend to the immediate emergency, which is to provide livelihood, to provide safety equipment and to do a general support to the economy.”