By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang has expressed confidence that the Philippines will be able to recover from the adverse effects of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the economy, saying the government is taking a hands-on approach to handling the issue.
In a press briefing in Malacañang, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the government’s monitoring efforts were not just focused on the virus, but also on keeping a close eye on the effects of changes in behaviors as a response to COVID-19.
“[We] will be proactive in making the necessary interventions to maintain our current trajectory, particularly with regard to the economy,” he said.
According to Nograles, while is COVID-19 is expected to impact the global economy, achieving the country’s 2020 growth target of 6.5 percent is still possible as the effects of diseases are usually short-lived and generally affect only the first quarter.
“Recent history has shown that the Philippine economy is resilient given its robust domestic demand and production. We are riding on strong growth momentum, with our GDP (gross domestic product) growth accelerating to 6.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019 from 6 percent in the third quarter,” he said.
The former lawmaker also noted how the Philippines managed to record a 5.9-percent GDP growth for the whole of 2019 despite external global trade wars and geopolitical tensions.
“Its vibrant domestic demand is spearheaded by the government’s ramp up of infrastructure spending thanks to the Build, Build, Build program,” Nograles said.
Nograles likewise lauded the country’s merchandise export performance after it posted a 21.4-percent year-on-year growth last December.
On the production side, Nograles said both industry and services sectors were major contributors to the country’s economic growth. He added that the country’s labor market was becoming healthier with a record-low unemployment rate of 5.1 percent in 2019 and 1.3 million new jobs generated last year.
Poverty incidence was also at a record-low at 16.6 percent in 2018 with 5.9 million people lifted out of poverty in the first three years of the Duterte administration.
“In this context, it is likely that the Philippine economy will exhibit a strong recovery from the temporary effects of COVID-19,” Nograles said.
“There’s a consensus that even if the first-quarter GDP growth will slow down, mitigating measures, quick responses, and low mortality rates would not hurt productivity. Domestic demand is still growing, and we have a big domestic economy.”
Nograles said the Philippines will sustain its growth trajectory towards meeting the full-year GDP growth target range of 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent since the country is “not as heavily dependent on the rest of the world, compared to its other neighboring countries.”