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Middle class not left behind in gov't assistance amid COVID-19 crisis —Cayetano

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday pointed out that the middle class was not left behind in the assistance provided by the government as the country faces the threat from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

In an interview with reporters, Cayetano said while government assistance may not be enough, it is not true that there was no help for people belonging to the middle class.

"Agad sinabi ng Pangulo, yung extension ng [payment ng] bills, filing ng taxes, no penalties sa mga ibang utang, no eviction, etcetera," he said.

"So bear with us, wala lang bibitaw. The important thing is, ang enhanced community quarantine is working. It's working. So walang bibitaw," he added.

President Rodrigo last week ordered the economic team to look into the possibility of including middle class households in the government's cash subsidy program, following suggestions of Cavite Governor Juanito Victor "Jonvic" Remulla.

According to a 2018 study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), 40% of the country's population belong to the middle-income class, while majority or 58% belong to the lower-income class.

READWho is middle class? Here's the classification from Philippine gov't think tank

Cayetano on Monday joined other government officials including Senator Bong Go, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, and National Task Force COVID-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. in inspecting the quarantine facility for COVID-19 patients at the the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

According to Cayetano, while the initially identified P275 billion budget will primarily benefit the 18 million low-income families as well as health workers, there have been talks about coming up with a separate amount to help micro, small, and medium enterprises, among others.

"Nagkaroon kami ng Zoom meeting with Senator Bong Go, ES (Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea), [Budget] Secretary [Wendel] Avisado and [Finance] Secretary Sonny [Dominguez], they're preparing quite a big amount then dalawa ang target, micro-small-medium enterprise at saka 'yung mga nasa SSS na diretso sa kanila," he said.

Cayetano said the economic stimulus cluster of the House's Defeat COVID-19 ad hoc committee will meet via teleconferencing on Tuesday to discuss various proposals from lawmakers to respond to the emergency situation.

The Speaker also said that due to the "deceptive" nature of the virus, response measures may not always be enough — a case which is true all over the world.

But he believes that Duterte is exerting all efforts to assist the public amid the COVID-19 crisis.

"Sa Kongreso, every week tinitignan namin ang report. Naniniwala kaming binubuhos ng Pangulo ang lahat ng puwedeng gawin ng gobyerno," Cayetano said.

"It's not to blame, to point fingers. 'Mabagal dahil sa 'yo, mabagal dahil dito, mabagal dahil doon...' It's time to talk, usap lang nang usap para bumilis ito," he added. —KG, GMA News