The government has expressed concern about the country’s “worse than expected” economic downturn but vowed to continue to work “round the clock” to facilitate the country’s recovery as soon as possible.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the economic team has prepared “a phased and adaptive economic recovery program” while Congress has been asked to pass vital measures such as the proposed Bayanihan II law.
The local economy shrank by a record 16.5 percent from April to June following the impact of the coronavirus lockdown that affected businesses and left millions jobless. The country has reportedly plunged into a technical recession given the latest economic contraction.
“While we understand that the decrease in our gross domestic product growth rate is a result of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ)/modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), we are concerned by the steep drop which is much worse than what our government economists had expected,” Roque said.
He noted that the Philippines was not the only country facing this economic decline. “COVID-19 has had an adverse economic impact on countries like Singapore, Indonesia, the United States, France, Spain, Mexico,” he said.
Roque admitted that the government took the “painful choice” of imposing the strictest quarantine level to stem the coronavirus outbreak. He said they also recognized the hardship of the people during the pandemic so the massive emergency subsidy program for affected sectors was implemented.
Despite the latest economic decline, Roque said the government’s resolve to recover at the soonest possible remains “strong.” He cited the government’s measures, including the recalibrated 2021 national budget and infrastructure development project, to help jumpstart the stalled economy.
“Ingat buhay para sa hanapbuhay is our battlecry,” he said.
“We assure everyone that the government will continue working round the clock to strengthen our resilience and bring us back to the path of inclusive growth,” he said.
He said the economic team has crafted the Philippine Program for Recovery with Equity and Solidarity, to fight the pandemic’s effects on business and livelihood. “We have likewise recalibrated our budget for next year and restarted our ‘Build, Build, Build’ programs, subject to health and safety protocols, to create jobs,” he added.
The government also expects manufacturing, construction, and transportation and storage, which were badly hit by the lockdown, will improve in the second semester “with our gradual reopening of the economy, as well as our proposed stimulus measures,” Roque said.
The Palace appealed anew to Congress to hasten the passage of the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One law to boost our second-semester offensive against COVID-19.
It also asked lawmakers to pass proposed Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act to help businesses recover and generate local employment.
The latest weakening of the economy comes as coronavirus cases in the country have soared past 115,000 as of Aug. 5. The country’s death toll has reached 2,123.
Recently, President Duterte placed Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal back to modified enhanced community quarantine for two weeks following an appeal from the medical community for tougher lockdowns to slow down the transmission. The health professionals have called for a timeout to recalibrate government strategies to slow down the surge of infections.
The Palace had earlier said the country cannot afford a longer strict lockdown due to the impact on the economy and livelihood of the people.
As the government moves to escalate testing, tracing, and treatment efforts, the government has repeatedly appealed to the public to follow health precautions such as wearing of face masks and shields and observing safe distancing to avoid getting infected.