Businesses cite slight rebound in June

Business operations began to stabilize in June following weeks of strict lockdowns, but the private sector is still urging government to further ease transportation restrictions to fuel consumer spending, the Department of Finance (DOF) said yesterday.

Following a series of meetings of Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III and other economic cluster officials with the private sector, the DOF said that a “gradual and phased” recovery has been observed in the local economy despite continued mobility restrictions.

The private sector leaders reported that construction has resumed, with one major property builder slowly restarting 78 projects and another conglomerate reporting that their infrastructure investments largely remain on track.

Mall owners in areas under the relatively relaxed quarantine controls also reported that foot traffic returned to 24 percent to 30 percent compared to regular operations, but sales were still sluggish as purchases were mostly food, household items and gadgets.

In June, real estate businesses reported an increase in the sale of residential units of up to 60 percent, while land developers noted that business process outsourcing companies have asked for additional office space for their employees.

The telecommunications, water and energy sectors, meanwhile, expect positive sales growth this year despite the pandemic. 

“Most firms also reported that they have begun to see a gradual sales recovery in June, coinciding with the partial reopening of the economy, and expect a slow reduction of losses in the coming months,” DOF said.

A major private sector lender, meanwhile, reported a rise in consumer loans except for automobile loans, and a surge in loan demand mostly from large companies. 

Hotel operations have also resumed in areas considered as “low-risk” but only for a limited number of bookings, such as for long-staying guests, returning overseas Filipinos and stranded passengers.

One major fast food chain has also reopened 93 percent of its stores nationwide, but sales have remained below normal because of existing mobility restrictions. 

Port operations, meanwhile, have reached a 60 percent utilization rate as of June. 

Liquor sales increased by up to 34 percent in the 1st half of 2020 despite the lockdown and higher excise taxes imposed starting January this year under the new "sin" tax reform law. 

Among the recommendations from private sector leaders were the easing of transportation restrictions, subject to health and safety protocols, to allow the movement of more workers and consumers. 

The fourth quarter is a crucial period to shore up demand and consumer confidence, they added. 

The government’s economic cluster sought last month the private sector’s feedback on the status of business operations and for advice on how the government could help restore consumer confidence.