The economy pummeled by the pandemic is slowly recovering, according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI),
“The economy is just starting to recover,” DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez said at the meeting of the government’s pandemic task force. “Hopefully the improvement will continue until we achieve growth.”
Lopez stressed that the economic shrink has become gradual. It improved from 16.5% decline in the second quarter to 11.4 in the third quarter and to 8.3 percent in the last quarter of last year.
The Philippine economy dipped by 9.5 percent last year, the steepest economic decline since 1947.
The pandemic has also forced the shut down of numerous businesses, retrenchment of thousands of workers and, mobilizing the government to allocate billions in aid to households affected by lockdowns.
The DTI secretary mentioned how the unemployment rate has also toned down from a high of 17.7 percent in April last year to 8.7 percent later in October.
“This (unemployment rate) is slowly going down. That means, many have returned to work; but this is still far from the 5.3 (unemployment rate before the pandemic) so we are working to bring back those who have not yet returned to work,” he said.
Secretary Lopez said the manufacturing sector has grown. The Philippine manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) hitting 52.5 in the last two months.
The headline PMI dropped to 31.6 in April during the climax of the health crisis. Exports have also recorded positive growth in recent months, he added.
He said business name registrations have also increased by 44 percent, with e-commerce business registrations reaching 88,000.
“Investments also continue to grow despite this pandemic. Last year, we hit… P1.02 trillion (in total approved investments). In January to December 2020, despite the pandemic, we still reached a trillion level,” the trade chief said.
For the first quarter of 2021, total approved investments rose by 64.65 percent to P137 billion.
Reopening of business establishments should not be blamed for the recent corona surge, Lopez reiterated during the meeting.
He said the government has ordered the temporary closure of some establishments because of the recent surge in infections, but other parts of the economy are given the permission to continue operating.
“We are limiting the potential risks to allow other parts of the economy to open and safely continue… But to clarify, the surge is not attributed to this,” Lopez said.
“So our economy is slowly recovering. We started to reopen last July so we have seen these improvements. We also noticed that when the economy started to reopen in July last year, the COVID cases went down. This is contrary to fears of many people that cases will increase if we reopen the economy,” he said.
Lopez pointed out that new infections plummeted to below 2,000 from 4,000 despite the reopening of the economy last July.
Quoting a statement by the World Health Organization, Lopez said the increase in the number of new infections can be linked to more contagious virus variants, more frequent non-essential gatherings, and “vaccine optimism,” wherein people became more confident about leaving their homes even if they have not been immunized.
Contributing to one third of the Philippine economy, Metro Manila and the nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal have been placed under a stricter general community quarantine for two weeks to address the rising number of corona virus infections.
Lopez also reported that the government is working to produce and distribute 47,047,788 face masks to the marginalized so they can comply with safety protocols.
Intended recipients are set to receive 12 million out of 13.67 million of the government produced face masks.
With additional report: Philippine Star, Alexis Romero
Image Sources: leopalace21.co.jp, The Manila Times, CNN Philippines