July 02, 2021
The Bureau of Customs (BoC) collected P52.447 billion from duties and taxes last month, beating its target by 11.2% despite sustained impact of the pandemic on global trade. Preliminary data showed the bureau’s June collection surpassed its P47.175- billion target for the month and also 23.1% bigger than the P42.59 billion in the same period last year. June marked the sixth straight month that Customs beat its monthly target this year.
The Philippines needs a “whole-of-government” approach to secure its delisting from the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) so-called “grey list,” the Central Bank chief said, as lawmakers sought to fast-track necessary legislation when Congress resumes session later this month. The international watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) earlier released its so-called “grey list” or the list of jurisdictions with strategic deficiencies in their regimes to counter money laundering, terrorist financing, and proliferation financing. The list comprised 22 jurisdictions, with four new entrants for this year including the Philippines, Haiti, Malta and South Sudan.
The manufacturing sector seemed to have started to return to growth path with the latest purchasing managers’ index (PMI) rising to 50.8 in June as quarantine restrictions eased in areas hosting a number of factories and exporters. The above-50 PMI in June indicated expansion in manufacturing activities. This reversed the below-50 indices, which meant contraction, in April and May when National Capital Region Plus—Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal—was placed under stringent lockdown measures to contain a surge in COVID-19 infections.
The two-week growth rate for COVID-19 cases nationwide has been declining, prompting health officials to announce that the country is already under “low risk” classification. From June 24 to June 30, the national ADAR is 5,772, almost half of the peak 10,845 ADAR recorded in April.
The entire country is experiencing a shortage in COVID-19 vaccines, Malacañang explained on Thursday as areas nationwide appeal to be given more supply. Amid limited deliveries, the national government is currently prioritizing nine areas in the immunization drive. These are the National Capital Region, Bulacan, Cavite, Pampanga, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao -- areas dubbed as “economic centers” highly vulnerable to the coronavirus. Roque said, however, that even with the priority given to these high-risk localities, they are also not getting enough supply.
According to a report released by MindNation on a study of 6,000 respondents, 53% said they worry about health risks and financial pressures. The survey, conducted between September and April, found that respondents were experiencing weakened focus and low levels of self-confidence. Employees also reported sleeping problems and less pleasure in activities they normally enjoy. Mental health challenges led 13% of respondents to consider more sick leave, while 35% believe their productivity has been impaired.
The Inter-Agency Task Force on Wednesday released the official list of areas considered as “green” or "low-risk" countries amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The task force earlier said individuals who completed their vaccination abroad and stayed exclusively within these states 14 days prior to their arrival will be subject to a shorter, seven-day facility-based quarantine starting July. Passengers must also undergo RT-PCR testing on their fifth day under quarantine in the accredited facility, the task force added.
Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said the P6-billion fund allocated under Bayanihan 2 for lending to the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in tourism “will not revert [to the National Treasury]. It was put in the Small Business Corporation [SB Corp.] as equity.” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat added, the capital infusion of SB Corp. was “already long overdue so DBM [Department of Budget and Management] used Bayanihan 2 as the opportunity to do so. So the funds for lending to tourism MSMEs won’t expire.”
In an advisory, BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said the extension of the ban is in compliance with the latest Inter-Agency Task Force for the management of Emerging Infectious Diseases’ (IATF) resolution extending for two more weeks (until 15 July) the ban on the entry of passengers from the said countries which was supposed to expire on Tuesday. The seven countries covered by the travel ban are India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.
Latest data from the budget department showed there was still an unobligated amount of P6.487 billion out of the total P141.59 billion released allotment for special appropriations under Bayanihan 2 as of June 25. The figures stated in the Bayanihan 2 status utilization report were highly dependent on the submission of agencies. The last day of the validity of Bayanihan 2 was on Wednesday, June 30. Despite appeals from various groups, President Duterte did not call Congress to a special session to extend the validity of appropriations under Bayanihan 2.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported that bank lending continued to contract in May, albeit at a slower pace from the April contraction. In particular, bank lending declined by 4 percent in May, slower than the 5-percent contraction recorded in the previous month. Bank lending first collapsed into the contraction territory in December 2020 by 0.7 percent. May is the sixth consecutive month of bank lending contraction despite the aggressive efforts of the BSP to lower interest rates and boost liquidity conditions. In comparison, the Philippines’s bank lending grew 13.6 percent before the onslaught of the global health crisis in March 2020.
Higher petroleum products prices and power rates in areas serviced by the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) are expected as upside risks to this month’s inflation, which is projected to stay between 3.9 to 4.7 percent. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin Diokno said weaker peso during the month is also among the upside price pressures during the month.
President Rodrigo Duterte approved a bill extending the estate tax amnesty for 2 years which initially set a June 14, 2021 deadline for the filing of estate tax returns. Duterte amended this law through Republic Act 11569, which said estate administrators or executors, legal heirs, transferees or beneficiaries can avail of the tax amnesty until June 14, 2023. The President directed the finance secretary to coordinate with the internal revenue commissioner and issue regulations for this within 60 days from RA 11569's effectivity.
The World Bank pledged to boost available funding for COVID-19 vaccine purchases and deployment to $20 billion from a previous target of $12 billion, citing a sharp increase in overall financing demand from developing countries. World Bank president David Malpass said the global development bank had already provided more than $4 billion to 51 developing countries for the purchase and deployment of COVID-19 vaccines, and would add billions for 25 more countries soon.
The Philippines may see another round of job losses in May amid the quarantine restrictions placed to address the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, according to the latest issue of the Market Call. The Philippine Statistics Authority will report the labor force survey for May. To recall, the country’s unemployment rate rose to 8.7 percent in April, with the National Capital Region (NCR) posting its second highest jobless rate on record, following the imposition of the stricter quarantine measures in the NCR Plus area due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. The PSA said the unemployment rate in April rose from the 7.1 percent posted in March.
The country’s gross domestic product (GDP) likely grew by more than 10 percent year-on-year in the second quarter largely due to the low base last year but also because of the better management of risks during the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, the country’s chief economist said. Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua told the Inquirer that based on the latest preliminary economic data, a double-digit or above 10-percent GDP growth was “doable” in the second quarter. The government is scheduled to release the GDP report on Aug. 10.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte has signed Executive Order No. 140 creating a National Employment Recovery Strategy (NERS) task force, which will implement the government’s plan to restore employment until 2022. The recovery plan, anchored on the Updated Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022, seeks to create a policy environment that encourages the generation of and improved access to employment, as well as livelihood and training opportunities. The NERS task force is to be chaired by the Trade Secretary, with the Labor Secretary and the Director General of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority as co-chairs.
The country’s expected removal next year from a watch list maintained by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for “harmful tax policy” was cheered by the chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means. Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, the panel chairman, said the country’s exclusion in the OECD watch list was due to enactment of Republic Act 11534 or the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (Create) Act.
The chief of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Tuesday reported the mining industry contributed a total of P102.3 billion to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2020 despite the challenges posed by Covid-19. Citing a report released by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), the DENR said the metallic mineral production value of gold, nickel ore, mixed nickel-cobalt sulfide, scandium oxalate, chromite, and iron reached P132.69 billion.
The country’s agricultural trade deficit in the first quarter widened by nearly 30 percent to $1.82 billion, driven by higher purchase of cereals and meat products, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). PSA data showed agricultural imports in the three-month period up 11.1 percent to $3.36 billion from last year’s $3.032 billion while farm exports fell by nearly 5 percent to $1.55 billion against $1.63 billion last year.
Following issuance of the Executive Order 142, the two banks issued a joint statement calling the move a “win-win” for coconut farmers and other agricultural workers in the country. The merger is expected to yield a combined total of 722 branches and servicing units, including those in the provinces. As of end-May 2021, LandBank’s loans to agriculture reached P230.02 billion, up from the P229.29 billion level in April. The number of farmers and fishers assisted by the bank reached 2,734,572 as of May 2021, also up from 2,703,249 in April.
ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO) slashed its 2021 gross domestic product (GDP) forecast for the Philippines to 6.4% from the 6.9% estimate it gave in March, based on its latest Annual Consultation Report published on Tuesday. This was still well within the government’s 6-7% growth target for the year and a turnaround from the record 9.6% GDP contraction in 2020. AMRO economist Zhiwen Jiao said the further reopening of the economy, recovery in business and consumer confidence, and a faster vaccination program will support the baseline forecast for this year.
A shorter mandatory quarantine period of seven days in a government-accredited facility will be required for all Filipinos vaccinated in the Philippines regardless of travel history and those vaccinated abroad coming from “green” or low-risk countries. The order is contained in IATF Resolution 123-C signed on Monday, which provides “green lanes” for fully vaccinated individuals traveling to the Philippines.
Malacañang sees no need for a special Congress session to extend the validity of Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2), which expires today, because the remaining P9-billion fund will likely be obligated for the government’s ongoing campaign against COVID-19. House leaders such as Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez and ways and means committee chairman Joey Salceda have appealed to President Duterte to call for a special session of Congress to extend the validity of the Bayanihan 2 law to prevent billions of unutilized funds under the law from being returned to the national treasury.
The Inter-Agency Task Force and the Cebu provincial government remain deadlocked on the quarantine protocols for returning Filipinos in the province. In a special session by the provincial government, Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia insisted that a three-day hotel quarantine rule must be followed if the returning Filipino yielded a negative result for COVID-19 in a swab test upon arrival. Garcia said those who tested negative will then continue their quarantine at home for the next two weeks, after the three-day hotel quarantine. She added their proposed three-day hotel quarantine protocol will only apply for Cebuanos, and the IATF rules will be enforced for non-Cebuanos.
Filipinos with serious reactions from the COVID-19 vaccine are now covered by government health insurance. In the event of hospitalization, a person may be paid up to P100,000 in addition to other benefits provided by PhilHealth and other private health insurers. A lump sum of P100,000 will also be given in the event of permanent disability or death. Persons who received at least one dose of vaccine from the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program are eligible to file for claims.
The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) said in a press briefing that the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act, enacted earlier this year, allows the investments for IT projects in the National Capital Region (NCR). Based on the implementing rules and regulations of CREATE, the Fiscal Incentives Review Board is tasked to finalize a list of priority sectors which will be granted incentives. Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez earlier identified the IT-business process management (BPM) among the critical sectors.