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Duterte Likely to Extend Philippines Coronavirus Lockdown

In this photo provided by Office of Senator Christopher "Bong" Go, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte eats breakfast as he starts his quarantine during his 75th birthday in Malacanang, Manila, Philippines, Saturday March 28, 2020. Duterte is going into quarantine for more than a week starting on his birthday after meeting officials, who have been exposed to people infected with the coronavirus. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (Office of Senator Christopher "Bong" Go via AP)

By Andreo Calonzo

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.

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.