More than 40 local and foreign business groups, including the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, have urged Congress to pass the Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy (Arise) bill, formerly called the Philippine Economic Stimulus Act bill.

A bill like Arise, the groups said in a statement, will help fight the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, protect jobs and help job-creating businesses, especially MSMEs, or micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, which employ more than 62 percent of the country’s workforce.

The P1.3-trillion Arise includes, among others, a budget of P650 billion for an expanded infrastructure program on health care, education and food security. There will also be P20 billion allotted for mass testing.

Based on data from the Asian Development Bank, the country’s stimulus response is small compared to that of other countries in Southeast Asia.

Thailand had the largest stimulus package in Southeast Asia, with $84 billion.

The Philippines, on the other hand, has allotted only $19.8 billion.

“A law along the lines of Arise would act on the lessons that many countries are heeding from previous recessions: that swift, substantial intervention is needed,” they said.

“The Administration’s fiscal management has provided the financial strength and fiscal space to do this. We can and should increase stimulus spending to approximate or exceed those of many of our neighbors, according to some comparisons,” they added.

The groups appealed to Congress and the executive government for “thorough but speedy deliberations to produce a law for this stage of the crisis and recovery.”

With Congress set to take a break, the groups noted that they supported having a special session of Congress to act on this.

“Unemployment funds and wage subsidies will help workers provide for their families, keep their children in school and fuel the economy. Loans, grants and guarantees will help businesses pay suppliers and banks, strengthening all of them for the challenging months and years ahead,” they said.

Other groups that pushed for the passage of Arise include the Management Association of the Philippines and the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.

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