The Philippine economy would recover from the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said.
Lopez made the statement, as he admitted that the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the country harms the country’s economic growth.
“Initially, NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority) has the computation that the impact would be one-percentage point but now, things are different. We will have to make another computation because of the enhanced community quarantine. So it’s a different situation now,” he said in a Palace press briefing held late Wednesday night.
Filipinos in Luzon were confined to their homes until April 12 after President Rodrigo Duterte placed the island under an enhanced community quarantine to arrest the spread of Covid-19.
Most works in companies and offices were also suspended during the implementation of enhanced community quarantine.
Individuals who are exempted from the mandatory home quarantine include health workers and emergency frontliners; select government workers, diplomat, farmers and cargo drivers, media personnel, and the skeletal workforce of businesses offering basic services and commodities.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia earlier admitted that the spread of novel coronavirus in the country could affect the government’s ambitious economic growth target of 6.5 to 7.5 percent for 2020.
Pernia, who heads NEDA, estimated that the country’s overall growth this year would be slashed by one-percentage point, in case Covid-19 continues to hurt trade and tourism.
Lopez said the government is looking for ways to contain the spread of Covid-19.
“It’s really important that we solve the issue now on Covid-19 and at least flatten the curve in terms of the number of cases and hopefully eliminate Covid-19. Only then can we really work on the rehabilitation, the bouncing back so to speak,” he said.
He said the current administration is doing its best to address the Covid-19 pandemic “as early as possible” to avoid the possible worst-case scenario.
Despite Pernia’s latest projection, Lopez was still optimistic that the country’s economy would recover.
“Yes, definitely,” Lopez said when asked if the government expects recovery of the Philippine economy. “We have very solid economic fundamentals before this happened and as you know, we were growing six percent already.”
Lopez noted that the government’s economic team rolled out a PHP27.1-billion package to provide economic relief to businesses affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.
He said there was also a “special” loan program for affected micro, small and medium enterprises.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar also said around PHP2.8 billion was allotted for his office’s Survival and Recovery Aid Program, which provides loans of up to PHP25,000 each at zero interest for smallholder farmers and fisherfolk affected by Covid-19.
Lopez ensured that the government is exhausting all efforts to mitigate the adverse impact of Covid-19 on the country’s economy.
“We are trying to avoid the worsening of this Covid-19. We don’t want to reach the worst situation and (we are) trying to nip it in the bud, I mean, solving it as early as possible. As the President, time is of the essence. We have to do it now before it gets to be at a thousand level or uncontrollable level,” he said. (PNA)