Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said he’s inclined to extend a lockdown of more than half the country’s population on its main island until April 30 to further stem the coronavirus outbreak.
Duterte, in an address late Monday, also said he’s considering tweaking this year’s 4.1 trillion-peso ($80.8 billion) budget to allocate more funds to virus response, as some 200 billion pesos set aside for cash grants to poor families won’t be enough.
“The economy is not moving, it’s at a standstill,” Duterte said, as he directed economic officials to find more funds to aid the poor during the lockdown.
The Economic Planning Agency earlier said that even the low-end of its full-year growth estimate -- a contraction by 0.6% -- “is still too high” if restrictions to movement on Luzon, an island of 60 million people that accounts for 70% of the country’s output, go beyond one month without government intervention.
Hundreds of factories and business establishments have been closed, placing tens of thousands of daily wage earners into a precarious financial position.
To support the economy, the central bank last month cut its key interest rate by 50 basis points and reduced banks’ reserve ratio to 12%. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas will also buy 300 billion pesos worth of government debt.
Duterte was also granted extraordinary powers from Congress to refocus the budget for virus response with an economic stimulus package currently being crafted to support businesses.