March 26, 2021
The World Bank has downscaled its 2021 economic growth forecast for the Philippines. The Washington-based lender on Friday (Manila time) announced a 5.5% growth projection for the country, down from the 5.9% it initially announced in December last year. The Philippines, it noted, has a “high domestic transmission” of COVID-19 and is “lagging behind” in its vaccine rollout.
Investment commitments in the Philippines surged by 64.65% in the first three months of 2021 despite the country's battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. Citing data from the Board of Investments, he said total approved investments over the January to March period hit ₱137 billion, higher than the ₱83 billion witnessed a year earlier.
The government is aiming to vaccinate up to 70 million Filipinos by the end of the year, hoping to achieve herd immunity to protect the population against rising coronavirus cases and even faster-spreading strains. To keep track of these goals, CNN Philippines lists the government's schedule of delivery and deployment of COVID-19 vaccines for the year, as laid down by vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr.
India likely to delay COVAX vaccine supplies for March, April, says UNICEF
Reuters reported on Wednesday that India had put a temporary hold on all major exports of the AstraZeneca shot made by SII, the world’s biggest vaccine-maker, to meet domestic demand as infections rise. UNICEF also said that COVAX participant countries have also been told about lower-than-expected supplies of AstraZeneca doses made in South Korea for March.
Vaccine statistics released by the DOH showed that as of March 23, “62.14% of the allocated first doses have already been administered, totaling to 508,332 administered doses.” Of the 1,125,600 available doses, 1,105,500 or 98.21% have already been distributed to vaccination sites. These do not include the 400,000 doses from Sinovac that arrived on Wednesday morning.
The government’s target to become an upper middle-income country by 2022 is still achievable even as the pandemic derailed progress, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said on Tuesday, though private analysts aren’t as optimistic due to the huge impact of the global health crisis on the economy.
Bohol Governor Arthur Yap is proposing a bubble-to-bubble travel arrangement with other countries to help boost the local economy. Yap urged the national government to consider special bilateral agreements with other countries that would allow foreign travelers to visit a province for a limited period.
In a televised briefing, Prof. Ranjit Rye of the OCTA said they would prefer a MECQ over the general community quarantine (GCQ) bubble in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal and Laguna if not only for its “social, economic cost.”
The national government will pay compensation to those who would suffer from possible adverse effects of Covid-19 vaccines unless there is “willful misconduct” and “gross negligence” on the part of private entities, Malacañang said. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this clarification after President Rodrigo Duterte described as “illegal” for private companies to be free from liability for possible adverse effects of Covid-19 vaccines procured under tripartite agreements.
National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said the number represents 24 percent of over 1.7 million total healthcare workers nationwide targeted to be vaccinated. He said almost 100 percent of the country’s first 1,125,600 doses of Covid-19 vaccines have already been deployed nationwide.
The second batch of Sinovac vaccines donated by China arrived in the Philippines on 24 March (Wednesday). The 400,000 CoronaVac doses arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 at 7:17 a.m. via Philippine Airlines flight PR361, according to the government's Vaccination Coordinated Operations to Defeat Epidemic team.
Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda called anew to the national government to immediately release “simple and reasonable” implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Covid-19 Vaccination Program Act to allow the private sector to help the government to secure vaccines.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. bared in the Cabinet meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday that they are targeting the vaccination of groups in the "A" priority altogether to speed up rollout and to sustain the economy. In a Palace briefing later in the day, Galvez stressed that the simultaneous inoculation may start by May.
“Only 22% of the total material value of plastics ($246 million/year) is currently unlocked. This results in $790-890 million/year of potential material value that is lost to the Philippine economy,” the World Bank Group said in “Market Study for the Philippines: Plastics Circularity Opportunities and Barriers”. The total material value which could be unlocked from plastics recycling amounted to $1.1 billion, assuming that four of the country’s key plastics resins had 100% collected-for-recycling (CFR) rates and were sold for maximum value in the market, the World Bank said.
The BIR is extending the deadline for the filing of annual income tax returns (ITR) for corporate taxpayers, following the recent surge in coronavirus cases and the President’s delay in signing into law the measure to bring down corporate income tax. However, Mr. Guballa did not give the new deadline date. The original deadline for filing of ITRs by corporate taxpayers is on April 15.
The government will soon require new cigarette manufacturers located in special economic zones (SEZs) to register with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), after discovering some companies produced illegal tobacco products while enjoying tax exemptions, the Finance department said in a statement on Tuesday.
Gross Domestic Products growth in 2021 is expected to hit 7.1%, though consumption could remain cautious with household incomes still under pressure from the economic downturn. ANZ Research Chief Economist Sanjay Mathur and foreign exchange analyst Dhiraj Nim said in a note, “Asia: Bracing for the reopening trade,” said spending on services such as travel, accommodation, recreation, and retail could help propel a recovery from 2020 lows as movement restrictions in Asia gradually ease.
Should Metro Manila return to modified enhanced community community (MECQ), the second strictest level, about 266,000 COVID-19 cases and 4,000 deaths will be prevented, said NEDA Acting Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua. However, some 58,000 people will be added to the current 3.2 million who are experiencing hunger, while 128,000 will lose their jobs. Metro Manila and adjacent areas will record an income loss of P2.1 billion, and 78,000 people would die due to non-COVID causes, he said.
The new COVID-19 quarantine 'bubble' involving Metro Manila and four nearby provinces is seen to have a significant effect on areas outside of the setup, a fellow of the OCTA Research group said. “In terms of preventing transmission outside NCR Plus, it will have a significant effect,” OCTA’s Guido David told CNN Philippines’ The Source. “At least we will not be infecting other provinces which do not have a high case count right now.”
Virus surge to delay infra projects
The recent surge in COVID-19 cases may again delay the implementation of big-ticket infrastructure projects, but the country’s chief economist said protocols must ensure that the virus does not spread among construction workers. “There is a higher risk now given the spike, so it will affect various activities, including infrastructure. But once the risk is managed, we expect it to return to a more regular level,” said Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua.
Various government agencies including the Anti-Red Tape Authority are working on a memo that will exempt startups from some business permit requirements, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said. The government has also created a group that will implement its startup development program since the signing of the implementing rules and regulations of the Innovative Startup Act in November 2019.
Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez gave an update on the status of vaccine procurement in the country during President Rodrigo Duterte's weekly address on Monday, saying the supply agreement was for 5 million doses of the Janssen vaccine. In the timeline provided by Galvez, 1.5 million doses are set to be delivered in July, although no definite date was mentioned.
Chief implementer of the government’s national policy on Covid-19 Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. said an additional 5.5 million doses of Covid vaccines are expected to arrive next month. He said around 2 million doses will be the Coronavac vaccines of Sinovac Biotech, which are part of the 25 million doses negotiated by the government with the Chinese pharmaceutical firm. Another 3 million doses will be the Sputnik V vaccines of the Russian vaccine maker, Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology.