May 07, 2021
The Senate and the Department of Agriculture on Wednesday agreed on recommended adjustments to controversial policies on pork imports. In a statement, the Department of Agriculture said that after lengthy deliberations, President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic team has reached a compromise with the Senate on pork import tariff rates and the minimum access volume. DA chief and economic team member William Dar said they recommended that the tariff rates be adjusted to 10-25% from the 5-20% stated under Executive Order 128.
National Statistician Dennis Mapa announced on Thursday an unemployment rate of 7.1% for the month, translating to 3.44 million Filipinos out of work. This is lower than the 4.2 million jobless in February, equal to an 8.8% unemployment rate.
The Food and Drug Administration authorized Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use on Wednesday, FDA Director General Eric Domingo announced. An initial shipment of nearly 200,000 doses of Moderna's vaccine, which was co-developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ Vaccine Research Center in the United States, is scheduled to arrive in the country on June 15. The Philippines earlier signed a tripartite agreement with the American pharmaceutical and biotechnology company for 20 million doses.
The government announced a ban on travelers from Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 variant from India. Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Wednesday said the ban will be effective from May 7 to 14.
Pharmaceutical firms should opt to secure voluntary licensing to produce Covid-19 doses despite the worldwide call to waive patent protection for the vaccine, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said. Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said there is only a slim chance the waiver for Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property (IP) rights will be approved by the World Trade Organization (WTO) given there is no consensus yet. In securing a voluntary license, the patent holder is authorizing a generic company to produce patented articles, such as the Covid-19 doses.
In a letter to Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III dated May 3, Meat Importers and Traders Association (MITA) President Jesus C. Cham said the decision to reduce tariffs on imported pork for one year was a “bold and courageous move,” but should be effective for the next five years. If lower tariffs are implemented until end-2025, Mr. Cham said benefits include a stable supply of pork for consumers and allowing local hog raisers to recover losses from the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak.
The Department of Finance (DoF) and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) expressed support for the two-year extension of the estate tax amnesty, citing difficulties in implementation and below-target revenues amid the pandemic. BIR Deputy Commissioner Marissa O. Cabreros said some of those who want to avail of the tax amnesty are having difficulty in getting required documents due to the ongoing restrictions on travel. She said the government has so far collected around P2.5 billion from about 43,700 who availed of the estate tax amnesty, well below the DoF’s P6-billion target.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez on Tuesday said improving COVID-19 figures will dictate if parts of the country can shift to a more relaxed community quarantine status — even as his fellow economic manager pushes for a shift from MECQ to GCQ by this month. He said the shift can happen by mid-May or at the end of the month if new COVID-19 cases go down and if the critical care capacity in Metro Manila and nearby areas improves. To be able to shift to GCQ, the Health Department said healthcare utilization rate should be below 50% and the average daily attack rate and two-week growth rate should be steadily decreasing. It noted that the number of new infections is improving.
To prevent a further surge of infections, the National Task Force against COVID-19 (NTF) intends to prioritize infection hotspots for COVID-19 vaccination, even as the government braces for possible delays in vaccine delivery because of tight global supply. Priority areas in Luzon are Metro Manila and six nearby provinces, as well as Calabarzon, Central Luzon, Baguio City, Cordillera Administrative Region and Cagayan Valley.
The Philippine Retailers Association (PRA) in January projected 10% growth this year compared with 2020, when initial lockdowns dampened brick-and-mortar sales. This projection would have still been 20-30% lower than the 2019 or pre-pandemic level. But the extended strict lockdowns and the recent surge in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases have since muted retail sales.
The Philippines asked the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to expand its loan portfolio in the next five years to give developing member countries greater access to credit as they recover from the pandemic. ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa responded positively, saying the multilateral bank was able to increase its lending last year to a record high of $32 billion. This was 32% higher than 2019’s $24 billion.
BoC said preliminary data showed it collected P51.277 billion in April, P2.077 billion more than its P49.2-billion goal and 50% higher than the P33.97 billion in April 2020. This marked the fourth consecutive month the bureau exceeded its monthly target this year. Additional revenues included collections from the Tax Expenditure Fund (TEF) amounting to P121 million, and Post Clearance Audit Group (PCAG) with P13.65 million.
The Bureau of the Treasury said the government’s outstanding obligations further rose by 3.5 percent from P10.41 trillion in February mainly due to the P463.3 billion in retail treasury bonds (RTBs) sold to small investors last March. Year-on-year, debt jumped 27.1 percent as of March from P8.48 trillion a year ago. The government has been ramping up borrowings since the second quarter of last year to bolster its war chest against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The more stringent COVID-19 quarantine reimposed in Metro Manila and four neighboring provinces accounting for half of the economy cut short in April the manufacturing growth posted in the first quarter of 2021 which prompted the country’s chief economist on Monday (May 3) to urge gradual easing of restrictions to meet this year’s growth goal. London-based global information provider IHS Markit Ltd. reported that the Philippines’ purchasing managers’ index (PMI) fell to 49 last month—below 50 meant deterioration in manufacturing activities. From January to March, PMI grew and stayed above the 50 level.