ECQ 2.0: What Are In Place This Time Around?
In a bid to cut down the surging daily COVID-19 cases, the government has placed Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal (NCR Plus) back into an Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) from March 29 to April 4, 2021; with a curfew from 6 pm to 5 am each day.
With another strict lockdown in place affecting everyone’s livelihood, what are in place to help everyone cope? Here’s a quick breakdown of what we know so far.
1. Financial aid
In response to the reimplementation of enhanced community quarantine across NCQ Plus, the government will once again roll out financial aid to poor families trapped in the area. This aid is targeted for distribution in mid-April at the earliest.
According to Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado on Monday, 22.9 million poor Filipinos in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna are set to get financial aid. The estimate was from the National Economic and Development Authority and it represents 80% of the low-income population in the area.
How much is the aid?
No specific amount of aid has been announced yet, however, the budget secretary confirmed that it will be lower than what was given in the first lockdown (between PHP5,000 and PHP8,000 per household). Avisado also hinted that not all aid will be distributed in the form of cash.
When can you get it?
The government is aiming to fully release the financial aid to the respective Local Government Units (LGU) by mid-April. From there, LGUs will distribute the financial assistance to the identified poor households in their municipalities. While the LGUs may receive the funds by mid-April, this does not mean the beneficiaries will also get their aid on the said date.
Should the ECQ be lifted after April 4, the financial assistance will continuously be distributed according to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
2. No mandatory loan moratorium
Despite the reimposition of the ECQ in the NRC Plus bubble, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas announced that there will be no mandatory loan moratorium.
In a statement shared by BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno, the mandatory 30-day grace period mandated by the Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act is not applicable to the reimposed ECQ in Manila as the law was only effective until June 1, 2020. Meanwhile, the second loan moratorium under Republic Act No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act also expired in December 31, 2020.
The BSP, however, released a statement encouraging BSP-supervised financial institutions to continue to provide relief measures to their clients by renewing, restructuring, or extending the terms of the loans, among others, based on their continuing assessment of their cash flows.
In the meantime, they reassured everyone that they will continue to closely monitor the impact of the pandemic on the financial industry to promptly address any emerging risk and to support a sustainable economic recovery.
3. Income tax return (ITR) filing
The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has released the Revenue Memorandum Circular 41-2021 which delays the deadline for income tax returns. Here is a breakdown of what it says:
- The tax filing deadline of 2020 income tax return is moved to April 30 2021.
- The agency is allowing taxpayers to submit their ITRs anywhere outside the jurisdiction of the Revenue District Office they are registered.
- Taxpayers can pay through their accredited banks.
- No penalties for wrong venue filing as a form of relief from the impact of the pandemic.
BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay also encouraged taxpayers to file their returns electronically or by using the eBIRForms and pay taxes online via their accredited channels.
4. Staycations are canceled
Your hotel staycations will have to wait as the Department of Tourism announced that only accredited accommodation establishments (AEs) are allowed to stay open as quarantine facilities
The operation of staycation hotels will be temporarily suspended until April 4, 2021. Violators will face penalties, from fines to suspension or cancellation of their accreditation depending on the gravity of their offense.
The Department of Transport (DOTr) headed by Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has launched a few programs to help both public transport operators and commuters during the week-long ECQ.
Libreng sakay for essential workers and travelers
To help essential workers, travelers, and Authorized Persons Outside of their Residence (APOR) get to their destination in the midst of the lockdown, the Department of Transportation has prepared a fleet of Modern Public Utility Jeepneys (MPUJ) covering 44 routes within Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal.
These MPUJs will display a notice that says “LIBRENG SAKAY PARA SA MGA AUTHORIZED PERSONS OUTSIDE RESIDENCE” to be easily identified by commuters.
The free public transport will operate from 4:00 am to 10:00 pm until April 4, 2021
Service Contracting Program
A program launched by the government under the Republic Act No. 11494 or Bayanihan to Recover as One Act to help Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) operators and drivers during the time of the pandemic. This program also aims to improve the quality of public transportation for the commuting public, ensuring the safety of the vehicles.
How does this work?
The PUV operators and drivers who are registered under this program will be providing free transportation to all frontline workers. In return, they will be paid by the government.
How to apply
The LTFRB is continuously looking for more PUV operators and drivers to sign up for this program. If you’re interested or anyone you know who is a PUV driver wants to have a stable income during this lockdown period, go to www.servicecontracting.ph to register.
MRT-3 halts operation until April 4
The DOTr has taken this opportunity to conduct extensive maintenance activities. Should any commuters wish to travel to any destination covered by the MRT-3, they are encouraged to take the EDSA Carousel System or take the free MPUJs for APORs and frontliners.
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