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Malls urged to keep their unpaid tenants running

This June 15, 2020, photo shows health protocols being imposed at a mall in Quezon City amid the coronavirus pandemic.

MANILA, Philippines — Mall and other space owners were asked on Thursday not to evict stalls unable to pay their rent and instead extend relief to tenants disproportionately battered by the pandemic.

“Sales have plunged to their worst in decades. There has been a cascade of store closures and jobs losses,” Benedicto Yujuico, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), said in a statement.

“While we understand all businesses are experiencing financial difficulties, for MSMEs, these difficulties could be insurmountable…It is in this regard that we are appealing to mall owners and commercial building landlords,” Yujuico added.

Instead of dismantling stalls, PCCI, the country’s largest business group, encouraged space owners and tenants to come to amicable terms in settling past dues, one of which is computing rental costs on percentage of sales “until such time that the situation normalizes.” 

“This will give tenants breathing room to stay open, which will also benefit the owners because an empty mall or center is worse than lower rental income,” Yujuico explained.

PCCI’s appeal to keep micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) operating has a broader basis since shutting them down can have a devastating economic impact. Around 99% of local firms are MSMEs, driving up the economy while employing 66% of the Filipino workforce.

The industry’s statement is also timely. As it is, Republic Act 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act provides for a single 30-day extension on rental payments falling due. But the law was signed last Sept. 11 and took effect few days thereafter, meaning any rental reprieve by this time would have already been exhausted.

Apart from rental payment grace periods, the government had also prioritized small firms in cheap bank loans, while assisting also their employees through a one-time cash subsidy worth P5,000 to P8,000, depending on regional location, to 3.4 million workers from May to June.

On Thursday, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III also floated the likelihood of government financing MSMEs’ 13th month pay, equivalent to one month pay of workers with at least 1 year of service.

With government already doing its part, Yujuico said it’s the private sector’s turn to extend help to MSMEs. 

“To be effective in alleviating the difficulties of our small enterprises and to sustain their recovery in the medium and long terms, we need a whole of society approach,” he said.

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Article and Photo originally posted by PhilStar last October 15, 2020 7:06pm and written by Ian Nicolas Cigaral.