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P3.4 billion zero-interest loans to small businesses approved

The Small Business (SB) Corp. has approved P3.38 billion in loans to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) under the Covid-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises program, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said yesterday.

In a television interview, Lopez said the Department of Trade and Industry’s financing arm has provided financial assistance to about 28,000 borrowers affected by the pandemic.

In a message to reporters, he said some P2.78 billion worth of loans were released to 23,141 borrowers.

He added that 10 percent of the borrowers are from the tourism sector, which is “seriously damaged” due to restrictions in mobility amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) crisis.

However, Lopez said the take-up of loans under the Cares program during the enhanced community quarantine in the National Capital Region, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal or the ‘NCR Plus’ has slowed down.

“Their operations are limited. If they will borrow and they can’t operate, they can’t pay for their loans,” he said in Filipino.

But compared to last year, Lopez said the number of borrowers in DTI’s zero-interest lending program for MSMEs has improved.

He said that SB Corp. received 200 applications a week at the start of the Cares program, and now gets 1,000 applications weekly.

SB Corp. also increased its processing capacity to about 4,000 applications in a month, he said.

“We should continue with this microlending program because there are still many takers, still in need of working capital loans to save their operations and jobs,” he added.

INDOOR RESTOs

Lopez also said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases might be sensitive in reopening indoor economic activities, including indoor dine-in services, due to new variants of Covid-19 in the country.

“So if we really reopen, the indoor restaurants – unless they can really do the engineering controls – they might be kept closed and only the outdoor activities will only be allowed,” Lopez said.

From nearly 2,000 daily cases at the start of the year, Covid-19 cases in the country in the past days even breached the 15,000-mark.

“To us, this is already the all-time big-time lockdown,” Lopez said. “We also say that we cannot continue in ECQ for a long time. What we are looking at is a gradual movement, the reopening to (the) next level of sectors.”

He added the current situation has hit hard entrepreneurs in tourism and food establishments, particularly indoor dine-in restaurants.

“With the new restrictions, there are many businesses that will remain closed for the meantime, or will really slow down their operations,” he said.

Citing a survey of DTI, Lopez said closed businesses at the onset of the pandemic reached 38 percent.

“Over time when we were reopening, it went down to 6 percent then to 4.6 percent recently. Others have completely shut down or shifted to other business,” he added.*PNA

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