October 29, 2021
ECCP at Work
The capital region will remain under Alert Level 3 until Nov. 14, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque announced. The Department of Health on Friday said Metro Manila’s moderate risk level is not enough to merit a downgrade to Alert Level 2. OCTA Research and the Philippine College of Physicians earlier said Metro Manila is ready for easing of some restrictions due to the continued decline in COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said the government must ease its rules on the sale of frozen pork to wet markets to further temper food inflation, which he noted remains elevated due to expensive pork products. Chua explained that he has two main concerns regarding inflation: food prices, particularly pork, and oil prices. He noted that the government has been able to arrest pork inflation down to 30 plus percent from 60 percent in the middle of the year due to the twin measures they implemented: expansion of minimum access volume (MAV+) and temporary reduction of pork tariffs.
The Philippines has reached a milestone in its coronavirus response after hitting over 100 million in total vaccine doses secured since the first shipment of jabs started arriving in February. On Thursday night (28 Oct), some 976,950 doses of government-procured Pfizer vaccine doses arrived in Manila via an Air Hongkong flight, raising to 100,528,240 the number of delivered life-saving shots to the country. Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr., who welcomed the latest vaccine delivery, said this achievement is "not only a product of a nation's people working together but is also a testament of the strong cooperation and will among international partners and stakeholders."
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said easing restrictions to alert level 2 in Metro Manila from the current classification will boost jobs by 16,000 a week. Data sent by NEDA to reporters yesterday also showed the de-escalation of National Capital Region (NCR) from alert level 4 to the current alert level 3 has reduced the number of unemployed by 24,000 weekly. The data also showed, and as reported by Malaya Business Insight, easing of restrictions from alert level 3 to 2 can increase gross domestic product (GDP) by P3.6 billion weekly while bringing it down from level 2 to 1 translates to P10.3 billion gained per week.
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin E. Diokno signed BSP Circular No. 1128, which directs banks to adopt procedures that will take into account E&S risks that emanate from borrowers and their portfolio. It also mandated banks to set out targets and limits to control these exposures and to assess creditworthiness of borrowers. Under the circular, banks should engage in a “constructive dialogue” with clients that may pose significant E&S risks. A bank should conduct E&S due diligence on the borrower from the start and on an ongoing basis.
Foreign portfolio investments — commonly referred to as “hot money” due to the ease by which these flows enter or leave an economy — posted a net outflow of $24.16 million in September, based on data released by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). This is 95% lower than the net outflow of $493.65 million a year earlier but a reversal from the $11.51 million in net inflow seen in August. It was also the smallest net outflow since the $21.58 million seen in March 2015. For the nine-month period, hot money yielded a net outflow of $459 million, 89% lower than the $4.4 billion in net outflow logged in the same period in 2020.
President Rodrigo Duterte has called for the opening of travel corridors in the region, during a meeting with his counterparts in Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia, as he cited the need to rehabilitate the pandemic-hit tourism industry. The creation of these travel corridors would allow people to enter certain territories without the need to quarantine, subject to certain requirements such as full COVID-19 vaccination. The President said similar arrangements to safely reopen borders and mitigate the impact of the global health crisis should also be considered.
The Department of Labor and Employment would have to align its policy pronouncements on requiring vaccination of workers with existing laws amid opposition from various groups, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said. Guevarra added the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases discussed the vaccination of workers at its meeting on October 26.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) estimates that easing the alert level in the National Capital Region (NCR) down further to alert level 1 from the current classification will add P14 billion per week in economic output. “If further de-escalated to alert level 1 (essentially no restrictions), an additional P10.3 billion (versus alert level 2) can be gained per week; or a total of P14 billion per week if NCR is de-escalated from alert level 3 to alert level 1,” NEDA added.
National Task Force against coronavirus disease chief implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. yesterday hinted of a possible downgrade in the COVID-19 alert level of the National Capital Region due to the continued improvement in its pandemic situation. Galvez said the situation in Metro Manila continues to improve as shown in its below 1,000 active cases and high 86 percent full vaccination rate. To date, NCR has administered 17.69 million doses of vaccines, with 8.387 million or 86 percent of the targeted population fully vacated. Nationwide, 56.25 million have been administered, with 26 million or 33.65 percent of the targeted population fully vaccinated.
The Philippine Retailers Association (PRA) reported that its members are anticipating “to break even” by the end of the year following an increase in their sales—this, after the Department of Health lowered last October 16 the alert level in the National Capital Region from 4 to 3. “The good news is the shoppers are now slowly returning. In fact, they are visiting our physical stores. I am sure, since the announcement of Alert Level 3 [in NCR], there has been more mobility and we see more shoppers now in the malls,” PRA President Romarie Ong said. Ong said they are also eagerly awaiting a lower alert level in NCR just in time for the start of the Christmas shopping season.
In the Philippines Institute for Development Studies Public Research Forum, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) presented a paper on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) developments in the Asean-5 and its importance to post-pandemic recovery. The paper, titled “Asean-5: In competition for FDI,” showed that out of the 13 variables identified by the study as determinants to FDI attractiveness, the Philippines was the poorest in 7 indicators among the Asean-5 nations. In particular, the Philippines has the lowest FDI stock as of 2019 in the region. It also has the poorest corruption perception—which means that investors see the Philippines as the most corrupt among the five countries in the bloc.
Emerging markets like the Philippines that seek to narrow ballooning budget deficits and ease their debt burden may face slower growth moving forward as they may cut back on public spending, the Washington-based Institute of International Finance (IIF) said. But Finance Undersecretary and chief economist Gil Beltran said the Philippines’ tack to maintain its fiscal deficit and debt ratios in the “middle of the pack” of Asian emerging economies would be the “best option” to keep the country’s investment-grade credit ratings.
The National Economic and Development Authority expects infrastructure spending to be sustained in the next administration, after tax reform enhanced its ability to finance projects. Government spending on infrastructure grew 44.6% to P570.4 billion in the first eight months of the year, according to the Department of Budget and Management. The government set a P1.02-trillion infrastructure budget for 2021, equivalent to 5.1% of GDP. The Development Budget Coordination Committee raised the spending cap on the infrastructure program to P1.29 trillion or 5.8% of GDP for 2022.
The Philippines is seeing signs of economic recovery after almost two years since a global coronavirus pandemic hit the world, according to the central bank. Amid weakened fiscal position and higher debt in many economies, structural and institutional reforms would be critical to jumpstart economic recovery, he said. Latest data from the central bank showed July inflows climbed by 52% to $1.263 billion from a year earlier. This brought the seven-month level to $5.562 billion, 43.1% higher than a year ago.
FDA director general Eric Domingo said he has given experts a week to review data and come out with a recommendation on the Department of Health (DOH)’s request for amendments on existing EUAs of vaccines used in the country. He said he received the letter-request from the DOH on Monday (28 Oct) and, in turn, gave experts one week from Tuesday to examine it and give their recommendation. At the request of the DOH, the FDA is looking at eight possible combinations – either the same or another vaccine – for the third dose.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) wants to subsidize all charges and fees of COVID swab tests for local tourists. “If things go as planned, we’ve been asking permission if we could subsidize everything, make it zero,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said. The DOT, through the Tourism Promotions Board, offers RT-PCR (reverse transmission-polymerase chain reaction) or swab tests done at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) for travelers for only P750. The amount is way below the usual cost of over P2,000 offered in other facilities. The DOT shoulders the remainder of the original costs.
Hundreds of thousands of the antiviral pill molnupiravir will arrive in the country in November. In a briefing, MedEthix — the first local importer to secure a compassionate special permit (CSP) on behalf of the first four grantees for molnupiravir — said there would be enough doses for 300,000 patients coming in next month. These will be imported under a CSP requested by four hospitals from the Food and Drug Administration last September. The medicine is expected to cost around ₱100 to ₱150 per each. A five-day treatment would need around 40 capsules.
In its report, Bloomberg said the country placed last for the second straight month among 53 nations in terms of resilience and response to the global health crisis. The Philippines scored 40.5 while neighboring country Vietnam was second lowest with a rating of 44. All economies at the bottom five are in Southeast Asia, including Thailand (46.8) and Malaysia (48.9), with the exception of Romania (49.5). Bloomberg noted that while the outbreak in Southeast Asia may have peaked and vaccination has improved, many of the region's nations are "still reeling" from the surge caused by the Delta variant.
Metro Manila is ready to shift to Alert Level 2 from 3 by November, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said. The capital region is under Alert Level 3 for the second half of October. Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier said she sees a “very high” possibility that the capital region will shift to Alert Level 2 should infections and coronavirus-related hospitalizations continue to drop.
Nationwide COVID-19 vaccination for all minors aged 12 to 17 will start as early as next Wednesday, November 3, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said. Galvez added that they will open on October 29 pediatric vaccination in up to 50 more hospitals nationwide in addition to the 28 already providing shots for minors. He said all regions will take part in the expanded vaccination drive. The Department of Health confirmed the announcement, noting that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will still be used among children during the nationwide rollout.
The proposed national budget for 2022 is now up for deliberation and approval by the Senate. The House of Representatives said the ₱5.024-trillion spending plan was on schedule for enactment before the end of the year, following its early transmittal to the upper chamber last Monday or two days ahead of the deadline. House Bill No. 10153 or the 2022 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) was approved on second and final reading in succession on Sept. 30, a day after President Rodrigo Duterte certified it as urgent.
A paper released by the Asean+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO) that supports regional integration in Southeast Asia titled “Policy Considerations in Using Tax Incentives for Foreign Investment” said efforts to attract FDIs should cover various policy measures, including tax incentives and non-tax measures. Tax incentives should be strategic, promoting certain priority sectors, encouraging activities that promote “positive externalities,” like spurring research and development, human resource development, or developing certain areas like Special Economic Zones, it added.
The National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19 is eyeing a November start for the administration of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine booster shots to priority sectors. The Department of Health (DOH) has approved the provision of booster shots to fully vaccinated health care workers (A1), who were the first to receive the jabs in March. Senior citizens (A2) and immunocompromised adults (A3) will also be prioritized, according to NTF chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.
The Philippines has already administered more than 56,2 million doses out of 97,678,340 Covid-19 vaccines delivered, according to the National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19. As of October 25, there are 25,955,669 fully vaccinated individuals, who comprise 33.65 percent of the country’s 70 percent target for population protection by the end of the year or an estimated 77,139,058 Filipinos. The average daily vaccination rate in the last seven days rose to 488,506 doses, higher than the 405,999 the previous week, due to stable supplies, according to NTF chief Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.
In its latest monitoring report, OCTA said only three out of 17 LGUs in the region – Mandaluyong, San Juan and Valenzuela – remain under “moderate risk” due to high average daily attack rate (ADAR) of over 10 daily new infections per 100,000 population. Citing data from the Department of Health (DOH), the group said Valenzuela had an ADAR of 11.15; San Juan had 10.57 and Mandaluyong had 10.50. The rest of the LGUs in Metro Manila were tagged as “low risk” and have “moderate” ADARs of less than 10 daily new infections per 100,000 people. According to OCTA, the entire Metro Manila may also be classified as “low risk” following continuing improvements in COVID-19 indicators.
Transportation Assistant Secretary for road transport and infrastructure Steve Pastor said that the DOTr has submitted to the IATF its formal position paper on the increase in passenger capacity for public transport from the current 50 percent to 100 percent. The DOTr’s recommendation to increase passenger capacity in public transportation, with pilot implementation in Metro Manila, is one of the measures being considered to help drivers and operators recover amid the pandemic and the continued increase of fuel prices.
The ASIAN Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is considering supporting climate-resilient infrastructure in the Philippines, its top official said. “What I would like to highlight is that the Philippines has a huge need for basic infrastructure. Given the geography of your country, topography, and I think connectivity within the Philippines is very much important,” AIIB President Jin Liqun said. AIIB will also cooperate with the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, he added.
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III told the Bureau of Internal Revenue to work with counterparts in other countries, including Russia and South Korea, to “determine how to properly tax these digital transactions.” The House of Representatives last month approved House Bill No. 7425, which amends sections of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, on third and final reading. The bill would impose a 12% value-added tax (VAT) on digital transactions in the country, including the digital sale of services such as online advertisements, subscription services, and supply of services that can be delivered through the internet such as mobile applications and online marketplaces.