PH ranks 8th in Southeast Asia response to COVID-19
MANILA, Philippines — Philippine funds for the containment of the new coronavirus further rose two months after the initial lockdown imposed in mid-March, but it still wasn’t enough to match those of other Southeast Asian countries in terms of spending per person.
According to Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) COVID-19 policy database, Manila’s total COVID-19 package stood at $19.8 billion as of May 18, up from $16.7 billion earlier during the month and $16.5 billion last April.
The sum of the Philippine government’s COVID-19 policies as of last week was the sixth biggest in Southeast Asia, after Thailand’s $84.1 billion, Indonesia’s $64.3 billion, Singapore’s $45.1 billion, Malaysia’s $35.5 billion and Vietnam’s $26.4 billion, while surpassing Cambodia’s $2.1 billion, Brunei Darussalam’s $318.1 million, Timor-Leste’s $254 million, Myanmar’s $99 million and Laos’ $10 million.
But the Philippines’ COVID-19 economic response per capita of $185.86 exceeded only those of Cambodia ($126.77), Myanmar ($1.84) and Laos ($1.46).
Seven Southeast Asian countries had larger COVID-19 response per capita than the Philippines—Singapore with the largest at $7,991.68, followed by Thailand’s $1,211.20, Malaysia’s $1,125.15, Brunei Darussalam’s $741.61, Vietnam’s $276.28, Indonesia’s $240.13 and Timor-Leste’s $200.32.
‘First and midstage’
The Philippines’ total response was equivalent to 5.39 percent of gross domestic product, compared with Brunei Darussalam’s 2.66 percent, Cambodia’s 7.71 percent, Indonesia’s 6.08 percent, Laos’ 0.06 percent, Malaysia’s 9.98 percent, Myanmar’s 0.13 percent, Singapore’s 12.82 percent, Thailand’s 15.96 percent, Timor-Leste’s 8.65 percent and Vietnam’s 10.08 percent.
Economists Anne Oeking and Marthe Hinojales, who both work for the regional macroeconomic surveillance organization Asean+3 Macroeconomic and Research Office, said in a blog published last week titled “Where are We in the COVID Cycle?” that the Philippines was currently “between the first and midstage” of their so-called COVID cycle.
According to the blog entry, “The cycle is a high-frequency indicator that we use to identify the rate of infection and recovery of the Asean+3 and other economies, by combining information from the so-called epidemic curve and active cases (the number of confirmed cases less the number of recoveries and deaths).”
It added: “Looking at both the speed of new cases (epidemic curve) plus the number of active cases gives us a sense of where a country is in terms of the infectiousness and maturation of the pandemic. After all, an economy that is recording zero new cases but still burdened with a large number of active cases is unlikely to be considered free of the virus and will need to remain vigilant about the possibility of reinfections.”
ADB economists added to the list of COVID-19 response measures the economic team’s P173-billion Philippine Program for Recovery with Equity and Solidarity (PH-Progreso) being pitched to Congress, which included the proposed Bayanihan 2 Act—capital and spending support to businesses and consumers by providing liquidity to companies, as well as the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (Create) aimed at slashing companies’ income tax rate to 25 percent in July while providing flexible fiscal perks to investors.
The government will now begin the distribution of the second tranche of financial assistance for poor Filipino families hit hard by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We can now distribute the second tranche, and this includes the 5 million additional families and the 12 million who previously received aid under the first tranche,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said at a press conference on Monday.
“The difference is, we will use electronic means for payout of the cash aid and the military will now help in distributing the financial assistance,” Roque said.
He made these remarks following a memorandum that Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea issued on Saturday, on the inclusion of more poor families in the government’s P200-billion subsidy program.
—WITH A REPORT FROM JULIE M. AURELIO
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