‘No magic bullet’ vs COVID, but PH’s biggest biz group sees light at end of tunnel | Inquirer News

‘No magic bullet’ vs COVID, but PH’s biggest biz group sees light at end of tunnel

By: - Content Researcher Writer / @inquirerdotnet
/ 07:45 PM November 18, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines has suffered its deepest economic decline in the last seven decades since 1946 as a result of the long restrictive lockdowns and health protocols implemented due to the COVID pandemic which started to mess up the economy and lives in the country in 2020.

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Despite the impact of COVID on the country’s health care system and amid the increasing cases of infections in the previous months, the government has been trying to reopen the economy and ease the country’s economic aggravation.

As the government slowly opens up the economy once again, amid the recent loosening of lockdown restrictions in Metro Manila and other regions, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI)—the biggest business group in the Philippines—prepared a list of resolutions with specific actions coming out of the 47th Philippine Business Conference and Expo (PBCEx) which concluded on Thursday (Nov. 18).

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“The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives, brought misery to our people, and set back our economy by a decade,” said Jeffry T. Ng, chair of the 47th PBCEx in a speech at the conference conclusion.

“To confront these perfect storm we need unprecedented measures to make sure our economy is ready to bounce forward as soon as it can,” he said.

The document, called the 47th PBC&E Resolutions, listed 10 recommendations that could help guide the country’s economic recovery.

Graphic by Daniella Marie Agacer

Resolutions for economic recovery

“What we continue to battle head-on is a complex, social, economic, and health challenge and there are no magic bullets,” Ng said

“While there are, no doubt, many proposals on the table, we offer 10 resolutions containing doable recommendations, proposed legislation, and executive actions to guide our economic recovery, address supply-side constraints, and leave no Filipino behind,” he continued.

The 10 resolutions, presented by 47th PBCEx Resolutions Committee Chair Edgardo G. Lacson, were:

  1. Resolution urging the government to fully open the economy now—even before herd immunity—to rescue, revive and rejuvenate commerce and industry before the economy irreversibly plunges into a deep recession.
  2. Resolution urging the national government to help businesses in creating new jobs and preserving already existing jobs amid the pandemic.
  3. Resolution to fully implement the law on ease of doing business.
  4. Resolution to modernize agriculture for food security and higher productivity level.
  5. Resolution to fast-track internet connectivity at competitive rates.
  6. Resolution to institutionalize innovation for economic development
  7. Resolution to innovate and digitize the education system in terms of curriculum, delivery and assessment.
  8. Resolution to protect the environment and lessen the country’s carbon footprint.
  9. Resolution to assure reliable and affordable power supply, which could help sustain economic recovery and produce more jobs.
  10. Resolution to fast track the completion of infrastructure projects under the government’s Build Build Build program and ensure transparency in bids and awards of contracts.

The resolutions were a product of consultations during five area business conferences in the National Capital Region (NCR), North and South Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao and PCCI’s various sectoral communities.

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“We hope these resolutions capture our collective aspirations for the short, medium, and long term expectations from the government working in partnership with us to propel our economy towards recovery and prosperity,” said Lacson.

Ng said the resolutions signify the private sector’s “commitment to provide solutions to the pressing issues affecting the economy post-pandemic.”

The document containing the resolutions was set to be submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a brief taped message, Duterte said he hoped that the event would “bring hope and inspiration” for many Filipinos to thrive in the business sector.

“As you conclude this event, may you carry what you learned to ensure the growth of your respective industries,” the President added.

This was not the first time that PCCI has urged the full reopening of the economy. In September, the business group expressed support for a full reopening of the economy amid an alarming rate of new COVID infections and deaths.

“Many health experts claim it is impossible to achieve herd immunity as the virus keeps mutating and the vaccine is always behind the curve,” Lacson said, noting that “the COVID-19 virus and its variants will be here forever” but can be contained by heeding health protocols without locking the economy down.

“We must remove our overblown fear of this virus and the even greater fear of another lockdown,” he added.

READ: PCCI wants economy to be fully reopened

By the numbers

According to data from the Department of Finance (DOF), the country’s loans intended to fight the COVID-19 pandemic have already hit around P903 billion ($18.4 billion) in June this year.

Graphic by Daniella Marie Agacer

READ: Foreign loans, grants for COVID-19 response hit $18.4B

The DOF also reported that the national government’s outstanding debt might reach a record-high P13.42 trillion by end of 2022.

In an interview last August, presidential candidate Sen. Panfilo Lacson cited numbers from the Bureau of Treasury (BTr), which detailed that from January to May 2021, the government’s debt service bill reached P623.59 billion.

Debt service pertains to the money required to pay back the interest and principal on debt obligations.

READ: Trillions and counting: The mountain of debt next president has to climb

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) on Nov. 4 reported that the country’s unemployment rate rose to 8.9 percent—around 4.25 million unemployed Filipinos—in September.

The rate was the highest since January this year.

Graphic by Daniella Marie Agacer

The PSA also found that the employment rate dropped from 91.9 percent in August to 91.1 percent in September.

“This translated to a reduction of 642,000 employed individuals from the 44.23 million total employed in August 2021 to 43.59 million total number employed in the month of September 2021,” the PSA said in its report.

READ: PSA: Number of unemployed Filipinos rises to 4.25M in Sept. 2021

Varying forecasts

While growth rebound was expected in countries across the Asia-Pacific, debt watcher Moody’s Investors Service noted that the Philippines might face a slower recovery due to the slow progress in the country’s vaccination campaign against COVID-19.

Asia-Pacific nations “with higher vaccination rates are positioned to recover faster. Countries with lagging vaccination rates are primarily emerging markets—including Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam,” Moody’s explained.

READ: Asia poised for rebound; PH to fall behind, says Moody’s

According to a report released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a leading business intelligence company, the Philippines was projected to reach herd immunity in 2023 yet.

Latest data from the National COVID-19 Vaccination Dashboard released by the Department of Health (DOH), ITF, and the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) showed that as of Nov. 17, a total of 72,763,442 doses of coronavirus vaccines have already been administered in the country.

Of these, 40,179,796 vaccine targets received their first dose, while 32,581,158 were already fully vaccinated—around 42.24 percent of the target 70 percent—or 77,139,058—of the country’s population.

While Moody’s showed an unappealing forecast for economic recovery in the Philippines, economic think tanks and financial institutions are seeing hopeful growth forecasts for the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2022.

READ: Think tanks’ crystal ball shows better PH GDP in 2022

READ: Economists raise 2021 growth forecasts for PH

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TAGS: 47th PBC&E, Business, coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19 pandemic, Economy, INQFocus, lockdown, PCCI, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, reopening
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