Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez expressed confidence the domestic economy can recover in the third quarter this year as long as the government will not pull back the reopening of economic sectors into “quarantine in general,” but instead implement granular lockdowns in areas with high cases and strict implementation of health and safety protocols.
In a radio interview, Lopez said the growth recovery projection by foreign credit rating agencies like S & P that the Philippine economy within the year is attainable. “I think that is a doable projection,” he said.
In fact, Lopez expects the domestic economy to post positive growth starting in the second and third quarter of this year as long as he government will not revert back to “quarantine in general” but rather implement granular or localized quarantine when there is a surge in COVID-19 cases in a particular area.
The country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the 4th quarter last year was at -8.3 percent, resulting in a -9.5 percent GDP for the entire of 2020. In maintaining Philippines’ BBB+ sovereign rating, S&P Global Ratings expects that the country’s policymaking will continue to underpin its credit metrics, and that the economy will rebound strongly in 2021.
Lopez stressed the need for businesses in areas where there is no surge in infections to remain open to keep economies afloat.
He also said that local government units (LGUs) have the powers to determine and assess situation if they will lockdown a particular area and a particular economic activity as needed.
For instance, he cited the decision of the Metro Manila Mayors Council to suspend the opening of traditional cinemas and arcades which were already opened on a limited scale in areas even under general community quarantine because of the surge of cases in their cities. The DTI has already issued a memorandum circular allowing the reopening of theaters starting March 5.
“DTI is very sensible,” he explained stressing they also listened to the comments and recommendations of the mayors. He said LGUs will manage the reopening of economic activities as they have also different restrictions.
Once the number of cases go down, he said, LGUs can reopen their cinemas at 25 percent capacity. LGUs even require stringent requirements. Instead of 2 seats apart in theaters they require 6 seats apart, wearing of masks, and no eating inside the theater.
Even as the economic cluster of the Cabinet has continually pushed for the reopening of more sectors, Lopez said this will not be done at the expense of the health situation in the country.
Based on a study released by Octa Research on Sunday, March 7, 2021, Metro Manila saw an average of 1,025 new cases per day in the past week, translating to a 42 percent increase in new cases from the previous week.
With the rate of increase in new cases and current reproduction number of 1.66, Octa said Metro Manila could see 2,000 new cases per day by March 21 and 3,000 new cases per day by March 31.
Nationwide, the Philippines was also projected to count 5,000 to 6,000 new cases per day by the end of March.
Lopez, however, noted that the increase in COVID cases could not be attributed to the newly opened sectors but to household gatherings and in remote communities where there are no visible enforcers of health protocols where people are in relaxed mode and forgot to wear face masks.
Meantime, Lopez said that prices of pork have started to go down to P330 per kilo although not at the suggested retail price of P300 per kilo as set by the Department of Agriculture. He said that Agriculture Secretary William Dar is seeing more supply coming from Mindanao and Visayas and the forthcoming importation will boost supply and bring down prices.
The inter-government task force is also pursuing investigations against alleged hoarders, price manipulators and warehouses of traders who are taking advantage of the short supply of hogs in the country, he said.