By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat, March 19, 2020; Manila Bulletin

Business groups have urged government to grant tax holidays and relief measures to industries to help mitigate the economic impact brought about by this month-long lockdown in Luzon to fight the local transmission of COVID-19.

In a statement, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) headed by Ambassador Benedicto V. Yujuico has identified 14-point recommendations to the government.

The Chamber of Commerce of the Philippine Islands president Jose Luis Yulo Jr. also urged government urged to grant tax holidays and extend deadline for tax filing of taxes until such time that lockdown in the National Capital region, according to a business group.

“Government must give tax holidays, extend the deadline for tax filing until such time that the company exits shutdown or skeleton operations,” Yulo said.

On the PCCI petition, the country’s largest business association has asked Department of Finance (DOF) through the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to allow tax payments after April 15th and waive applicable penalties and interest charges for delayed tax remittances.

PCCI has also urged the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to enjoin the telcos (PLDT and Globe) to remove all Data Capping in mobile Broadband Internet services, as a way to allow their customers a continuous service 24/7 until the crisis is declared over.

The group also asked the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the DOF to encourage banks to declare a moratorium on loan amortizations falling due within six months from the occurrence of COVID-19 for business, consumer, home and loans to large enterprises. Affected MSMEs and even corporations have to apply with their respective universal, commercial and savings banks for the moratorium to take effect.

In consideration of the present situation where businesses are experiencing losses, Mindanao businessmen asked for government to re-consider the holiday pay for workers for April 9, Holy Thursday, which is also Araw ng Kagitingan. The salary computation for the said date would total 300 percent if a business is in operation, and 200 percent if closed. They suggested 200 percent if in operation, and 100 percent if closed.

The group also asked the Department of Trade and Industry to strictly enforce price controls to keep food prices (and inflation) low, protect food supply and other basic and prime commodities, especially for the marginalized sectors, and enable trade to continue.

Vital industries like power, water, transport, telecommunications and others that provide essential services to the public must continue to operate with businesses and workers exercising the recommended protocols as prescribed by the Department of Health (DOH) and guidelines issued by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

PCCI also supported the PCCI Mindanao’s petition for the Department of Agriculture (DA) to declare Mindanao to be a separate food quarantine area to allow the unhampered delivery of food for the entire country.

PCCI also supported DA’s declarations on quarantined agricultural products (affected by the foot and mouth diseases, avian flu, etc.) covers the entire country. Location-specific quarantine will help with the continued supply of food in the country.

Likewise, the PCCI National supported the PCCI Mindanao for DA to create a food logistics backbone from General Santos to Cebu City and Tagbilaran City via Davao and Bukidnon. Government can put up cold storage in key points.

In addition, PCCI urged the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), DTI and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to work out a mechanism where the Conditional Cash Transfer/Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program can be used to subsidize Micro and Small Businesses.

The DTI should also establish a rehabilitation fund for affected MSMEs in the areas of technical assistance and special financing for working capital and equipment/machinery acquisition.

DTI was also urged to encourage Mall owners/management/lessors to waive rentals for MSMEs during the period of the closure order; if not, grant a special arrangement as a support to our MSMEs.