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Philippines looking to raise P1.17 trillion to fight COVID-19, ease effects

The Philippine government is looking to raise $23 billion or around P1.17 trillion to fuel the country’s fight against the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 and to ease its economic impact on Filipinos.

In an interview on CNBC early Wednesday, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the total value of $23 billion for the country’s COVID-19 response was equivalent to 5% to 6% of the Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP).

Dominguez said bulk or $16.4 billion or around P836.4 billion will be raised together with monetary authorities “for the support of the economy.”

The government has also allocated $6 billion for the “support the most vulnerable in our communities.”

“We are also allocating $650 million to frontliners supporting the battle against the virus,” Dominguez said.

The government earlier approved a P275-billion package in March under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act to support some 18 million low-income households affected by the enhanced community quarantines that stalled the economy.

President Rodrigo Duterte, however, said the amount was not enough. He ordered Dominguez to look for more funds for the government's programs amid the COVID-19 crisis.

“We are very active for negotiations for total loans of $5.7 billion first with Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) since they have the lowest interest rates to us," Dominguez said.

“After filling this up, we will most likely go to commercial markets,” he added.

The Finance chief also noted that the Philippines have “a lot of headroom” for borrowing since the country’s debt-to-ratio is only at 41%.

Dominguez said that with debt financing getting a boost, the amount of the country’s debt in relation to the size of the economy will slightly increase above 46%.

Finance Assistant Secretary and spokesperson Antonio "Tony" Lambino II, earlier said the administration was in talks with international credit facilities for possible loan agreements.  -NB, GMA News