April 30, 2021
The country’s balance of payments (BoP) stood at a deficit for the third straight month in March as the National Government continued to pay its dollar obligations, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). The BoP posted a deficit of $73 million in March, reversing the $448-million surplus a year earlier, based on data released by the central bank on Thursday. It was, however, 96% smaller than the $2.019-billion deficit recorded in February.
The economy of the National Capital Region (NCR), alongside those of Calabarzon and Central Luzon, suffered double-digit contraction that weighed heavily on the country’s output last year, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on Thursday. All 17 regions posted declines, reflecting the Philippine economy’s downward revised record 9.6% drop last year amid strict lockdowns put in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported on Thursday that the country’s Balance of Payments (BoP) hit a deficit of $2.84 billion in the first three months of the year. The first quarter BoP deficit of the country is larger than the $68- million deficit in the January-March period in 2020.
During the Laging Handa briefing on Thursday, DTI Undersecretary Ruth B. Castelo said the Trade chief is recommending to the Inter-Agency Task Force to “ease up a little bit” on the restrictions for commercial establishments as long as they follow mandatory health protocols. She explained that allowing more sectors to operate under MECQ, especially labor-intensive ones, will help improve employment figures.
The Department of Labor and Employment said COVID-19 has been included in the list of occupational and work-related diseases. This means workers who were infected by the virus could receive compensation via the Employees' Compensation Commission (ECC) provided they meet the conditions specified under a recent board resolution.
Restaurants are now allowed to hold indoor dining operations but at 10% seating capacity, while personal care services such as beauty salons and barbershops can reopen at 30% capacity, the Palace announced. Roque said the IATF also allowed beauty parlors, barbershops, and nail spas to return to operations with an initial 30% capacity in MECQ areas. But they can only provide services that will let customers continue wearing their face masks at all times, he added.
The Philippines-European Union (EU) Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) will focus on a green resilient economy, justice, and peace in the next seven years. In a statement, the EU said, however, that the immediate priority of its assistance to the Philippines will be in supporting socioeconomic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.
The Philippines might start the COVID-19 vaccination of people outside its priority groups by August or September, an official leading the drive said. The vaccination drive currently covers the top three priority groups, including health workers, the elderly, and people with health risks. The fourth and fifth priority groups - economic frontliners and indigents - will start getting vaccines in June, said Galvez, who is also chief implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19.
All 17 mayors of the National Capital Region have agreed on new curfew hours for their respective cities and municipality effective May 1. Metro Manila mayors, through Resolution 21-09 Series of 2021, have unanimously agreed to adjust curfew hours starting May 1. New unified curfew hours will be from 10 pm to 4 am.
With only over three million vaccines deployed since March, presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the government is already having difficulty fulfilling its supplies this month, owing to a shortfall in deliveries. This is in reaction to House Bill No. 9252, filed by Cavite Fourth District Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, which aims to amend Republic Act 11525, the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021.
AS the effectivity of the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in the National Capital Region (NCR) Plus bubble is about to expire by end-April, the OCTA Research Group believes that it’s not the right time to ease the lockdown in Metro Manila and nearby provinces as the Covid-19 pandemic situation remains unstable. According to OCTA Research fellow Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, the decreasing number of active new cases must be sustained and the healthcare capacity needs to be improved in order to downgrade the current quarantine status in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
In the recent ADB publication of the Asian Development Outlook (ADO) 2021, it was noted that 1.7 million wage and salary jobs in private establishments and government were wiped out in the 12 months to January 2021. ADB Philippines Country Director Kelly Bird noted that based on the latest data, some 435,000 Filipinos shifted to informal jobs from formal employment due to the lockdowns.
The National Government’s budget deficit widened to P191.4 billion in March, as spending grew by double digits and revenues slipped amid a stricter lockdown, the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) reported on Tuesday. Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said the deficit would likely remain elevated this year, as the prolonged pandemic means the government still spending to drive growth.
For yet another year, the government has been forced to operate under a “double budget” arrangement, in which the unspent funds from the prior periods were authorized for use beyond the end of the calendar year they were intended for. Which raises the question: Do these extensions of budget validity actually help supercharge spending, or are they a symptom of an inability to gain any traction for even the government’s centerpiece programs?
The Asian Development Bank has slashed its economic growth forecast for the Philippines this year to 4.5% as the country continues to grapple with the current health crisis. The updated projection is down from the 6.5% forecast ADB made in December last year, and falls below the 6.5% to 7.5% target growth band set by economic managers for 2021.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) earlier said it will be launching an online portal for national ID registration. Applicants will simply have to input their personal information and schedule their visit to centers to have their biometrics information recorded. For the first quarter of 2021, 17.4 million individuals have completed the system’s Step 1 registration, which involves the door-to-door collection of information in low-income households and appointment setting for Step 2.
In a statement on Tuesday, Albay Rep. Jose Ma. Clemente S. Salceda said he filed House Bill 9261 or the proposed Biosimilars Act to expand consumer knowledge on affordable alternatives to similar branded drugs. He added that biosimilars are “competitors’ versions of branded drugs.” If enacted, the bill mandates the health department to ensure resources on biological products, including biosimilar biological products and interchangeable biosimilar biological products, are available to patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers.
The Philippine economy is well positioned for a sharp rebound after the coronavirus pandemic, thanks to structural reforms implemented after previous crises, especially in the banking system, according to the country’s chief financial regulator. In particular, Philippine banks are strong enough to weather the downturn brought about by the COVID-19 crisis due to their sufficient equity and conservative balance sheets that make them resistant to soured assets.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) approved the request of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), for the vaccines to be used for minimum wage earners and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) earlier announced several workers will be vaccinated on May 1, 2021 to mark the start of the inclusion of economic frontliners (A3) in the ongoing vaccination drive of the government.
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III on Tuesday defended the move to cut tariffs on pork imports, saying that while the government might lose about P14 billion in revenues, this measure would allow consumers to save P67 billion. At the hearing, senators grilled the Finance chief over Executive Order (EO) 128, which reduced the tariff rates of pork imports within the minimum access volume (MAV) quota to 5% in the first three months and 10% in the following nine months; and out-quota pork imports to 15% in the first three months and 20% in the succeeding nine months.
Fitch Ratings lowered its economic growth projection for the Philippines this year, as it sees the country struggling to contain a renewed surge in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infections. In a note on Tuesday, Fitch Ratings said it now expects Philippine gross domestic product (GDP) to grow by 6.3% this year, slower than the 6.9% estimate it gave in January. This is also below the government’s 6.5% to 7.5% target, and the most pessimistic outlook compared with those earlier given by S&P Global Ratings (7.9%), and Moody’s Investors Service (7%).
The Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) is set to raise P170 billion from the domestic debt market in May, as the government seeks to boost liquidity amid the pandemic. In an advisory, the BTr said the May domestic borrowing plan is the same amount programmed for this month. It was said that the BTr would borrow P100 billion during the weekly offering of Treasury bills (T-bills), and another P70 billion via Treasury bonds (T-bonds) to be offered fortnightly.
The Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) is set to meet next month to revisit economic growth targets, as economic managers assess the impact of the stricter lockdown as well as official gross domestic product (GDP) data for the first quarter. Socioeconomic and Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said they are sticking to the 6.5-7.5% GDP target for now, while the economic team awaits the release of first-quarter GDP data on May 11.
The government is being urged to provide more financial support across sectors and to ramp up infrastructure investments to help the pandemic-battered economy recover faster. In response, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said that the government will take the recommendations into consideration “and do our best to achieve most of them within the remaining period of the President’s term.”
The House Ways and Means Committee approved bills that proposed new economic zones in various parts of the country, including Mindoro, Sangley Point, Cavite, and Bacolod City. In a hearing on Monday, the committee made an omnibus approval on the tax provisions of unnumbered substitute bills to House Bills 263, 264, 655, 3239, 5440, 5538, and 5794 subject to amendments. The seven bills called for special economic zones to be created in Paluan, Occidental Mindoro; Sangley, Cavite; Cebu’s 4th District, Bacolod, Northern Bohol, and Metro Iloilo.
According to an April 20 research note titled “Lockdown Watch” written by Global Source economist Romeo Bernardo, the think tank sees a government bias for the reopening of the economy following the recent return to strict enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and the transition to the looser modified ECQ (MECQ) as COVID-19. It pointed out that one possible channel of transmission for the new variants was the lax quarantine policy on returning overseas workers who were supposed to undergo a 14-day quarantine period