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ECCP@Work Featured News Articles | January 11, 2022

January 11, 2022

ECCP Online

2022 PH growth forecast cut to 7.1%

Further economic reopening during last year’s Christmas holidays likely lifted growth in 2021, but the COVID-19 infection surge at the start of this year is seen tempering gross domestic product (GDP) expansion, investment banking giant Goldman Sachs’ updated forecasts showed. In a Jan. 8 report, Goldman Sachs Economics Research noted that “the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has begun spreading in most Asia-Pacific economies.”

Govt ready to escalate Metro Manila to Alert Level 4 if hospitalization rises: Palace

Government is ready to escalate Metro Manila to Alert Level 4 if it reaches the healthcare utilization threshold of more than 70 percent, Malacañang said Monday, January 10. The capital region remains under Alert Level 3 as it has high average daily attack rate, high 2-week growth rate, and moderate hospitalization rate, according to acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles. "We will not hesitate to do Alert Level 4 if we see that it breaches the threshold. We continue to manage the situation so we do not reach the threshold so that means making sure our healthcare is well enough to accommodate those who need hospitalization," he told ANC's Headstart.

NCR COVID-19 positivity rate further rises to 52% — Octa Research

The COVID-19 positivity rate in Metro Manila further rose to 52 percent, independent pandemic monitor Octa Research said on Monday, January 10. This is the second day the National Capital Region (NCR) registered an over 50-percent positivity rate. The first one was on January 9 at 50.5 percent.

Metro Manila mayors see no need yet to raise alert level despite COVID-19 surge

Despite the alarming surge in COVID-19 cases nationwide, the 17 mayors in Metro Manila still see no need to impose stricter rules to restrict mobility among residents other than the unvaccinated, since the “metrics” in the national capital remained favorable. In a press conference on Monday, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair Benhur Abalos expressed confidence in the high vaccination rate in the National Capital Region (NCR), which has exceeded its target population as of Jan. 9.

Think tank flags risks posed by Omicron on 2022 PH growth

A United Kingdom-based think tank cautions on the risks caused by the Omicron coronavirus variant on the Philippine economy, along with the behavior of households as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on. “As things stand, we see no reason to change our below-consensus 4.5% GDP growth forecast for 2022, though the arrival of Omicron implies that risks are tilted to the downside,” said Pantheon Macroeconomics senior Asia economist Miguel Chanco in his weekly monitor published Monday, January 10.

FDI inflows rise for 5th straight month

Foreign direct investment (FDI) net inflows almost doubled in October, rising for the fifth straight month after nonresidents’ net investments in debt instruments increased. Data released by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) on Monday showed that FDIs climbed by 98.9% year on year to $855 million in October from $430 million a year earlier. This was also 29.5% higher than $660 million in September, which was the lowest in four months as the surge in coronavirus cases dampened investor sentiment. Foreign direct investment sustained an uptick as the economy gradually reopened in October, ING Bank N.V. Manila Senior Economist Nicholas Antonio T. Mapa said in an e-mail.

Omicron wave could push hospitalizations to record in Philippines

Health experts have warned that an Omicron-driven wave of COVID-19 infections could exhaust the Philippines’ healthcare system again. “Every time there is a spike in COVID-19 cases, we should anticipate that hospital beds will be filled, supplies and equipment will run out, and restrictions will revert to stricter levels especially if we do not learn from recent experiences,” said Joey Francis Hernandez, treasurer of the Philippine Society of Public Health Physicians. Preparing the hospital system for a spike in COVID-19 cases “would be best if the community is also empowered to respond to this threat,” he said in a Facebook Messenger chat. “That means more free and subsidized testing centers.”

Higher industry tier classification sought for energy efficiency projects

Entities involved in energy efficiency (EE) projects have again called on government agencies involved in classifying projects for fiscal and other incentives to review an industry tier system before issuing specific guidelines for the endorsement of investments that will receive these perks. In its recap of what transpired during a public consultation for a draft Department of Energy (DoE) circular, the Philippine Energy Efficiency Alliance (PE2) said that the department and the Board of Investments “should first quickly exhaust all opportunities within its policy mandate to reclassify all EE projects” as a Tier III economic activity.

Competition watchdog to step up review of deals

The Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) is expected to step up its review of mergers and acquisitions this year, once the Bayanihan II law expires in September. “As firms continue to struggle from lower demand and micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) remain vulnerable to indebtedness and closures, risks of anti-competitive behavior persist, including anti-competitive mergers and acquisitions, cartel activities, and abuses of dominance,” PCC Chairperson Arsenio M. Balisacan said in the commission’s year-end report released on Monday, January 10.

Legislators tout open access bill as recovery driver

Legislators said they expect a bill which they co-authored to improve competition in the digital services industry, helping propel the economy’s recovery, ultimately reducing poverty. House Bill No. 8910, also known as the Open Access in Data Transmission Act, hopes to promote fair and open competition by lowering barriers to entry for the telecommunications industry, in the process lowering the cost of such services.

Barmm reaps P200-M fresh investments for new year

Two investment projects worth P200 million landed on the lap of the Bangsamoro region on the first week of the new year. The regional Bangsamoro Board of Investments (RBOI) convened on Wednesday, January 5, to approve the registration of Pagana Kutawato Corp. and Hanabana Construction and Equipment Corp., which would pour P200 million to their respective projects. The RBOI said the two investors would be granted fiscal incentives accordingly.

Exclusive: ‘2021 a year of growth for insurance industry’

Despite the hurdles related that the pandemic established on progress, the year 2021 remains a “year of growth,” according to Insurance Commissioner Dennis B. Funa. Citing data from interim reports for the third quarter of last year, Funa said the industry’s total net income grew by 31.04 percent year-on-year while premium income rose by 28.71 percent. Investments also grew by 14.02 percent while assets increased by 12.5 percent.

Economy to lose P3 billion each week NCR Plus is under Alert Level 3

The economy will lose P3 billion a week in productivity contributions due to the shift to the more restrictive Alert Level 3 in Metro Manila and nearby regions, government economic managers said on Friday, January 7. “We estimate that the shift from Alert level 2 to Alert Level 3 for NCR plus, which includes Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal, will result in a Gross Value Added loss of about P3.0 billion per week,” the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) said in a joint statement.  The five areas are under the stricter alert level 3 up to Jan. 15. 

Congress urged to pass final set of tax reforms

President Duterte’s chief economic manager on Friday said he remained hopeful that Congress will pass a couple of measures as part of the administration’s comprehensive tax reform program, following the progress of bills aimed at further opening the economy to foreign participation. “The approval on third reading of the Department of Finance (DOF)-supported amendment proposals to the Public Service Act, the Foreign Investments Act and the Retail Trade Liberalization Act by both houses of Congress in 2021 bode well for the approval of the remaining tax reform packages,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said in a statement.

DOF: $800M in vaxx loans to fund more booster shots

With a total of $800 million (about P41 billion) in concessional loans from multilateral lenders expected to take effect this month, the government is ready to buy additional booster shots against COVID, the Department of Finance (DOF) said on Friday (Jan. 7). Citing a recent report by Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin to President Rodrigo Duterte, the DOF said the low-interest loans intended for boosters, approved in December 2021, were all signed with creditors last month.

Amended RTLA eases entry of investors

The Department of Finance (DOF) has lauded the amendment of the Retail Trade Liberalization Act (RTLA), with provisions of the measure seen to simplify and ease restrictions for foreign retailers that wish to set up shop in the Philippines. In a statement over the weekend, Carlos Dominguez, DOF secretary, thanked President Duterte and the Congress for the enactment into law of the measure that seeks to further liberalize the Philippine economy and open the country to more foreign direct investments and job creation.

3 big-ticket projects to start construction

NLEX Corp. is set to start the construction of three big-ticket projects this year. “Continuous improvement will always be our priority. As the company ends 2021 with a positive note, we welcome 2022 with optimism as there are big-ticket projects that we will complete and commence this year,” J. Luigi Bautista, NLEX president and general manager, said in a statement. These projects include the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) Circumferential Road 5 (C5) Link Mindanao Avenue-Quirino Highway section, the Candaba third viaduct and the NLEX Connector. Set to start construction within the year is the new two-kilometer expressway section between the existing Mindanao avenue toll plaza and Quirino highway in Novaliches, Quezon City.

No more massive lockdowns, DTI assures biz sector

There will no longer be hard lockdowns amid the spike in cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), made worse by the more transmissible Omicron variant. In a statement Friday, January 7, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said they were assured by Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) officials that the government will not implement massive lockdowns anymore. Instead, restrictions will be focused on the unvaccinated.

DOE appeals coal export ban by Jakarta

The Department of Energy (DOE) has submitted a formal appeal to the government of Indonesia to lift its coal export ban to the Philippines, saying this could jeopardize the Philippines’s coal-reliant power generation systems. Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi said he has explained to Indonesian Minister of Energy & Mineral Resources Afirin Tasrif that the recent policy will be “detrimental to economies that currently rely on coal-fired power generation systems like the Philippines.”

Reskilling, upskilling crucial amid pandemic

Businesses need to focus on reskilling and upskilling their people to adapt to changes especially those brought about by the pandemic. Philippine Trade Training Center (PTTC), the training arm of the Department of Trade and Industry, is looking at sector development, identifying skills that are in demand, and necessary skills and competencies that can respond to the requirements of the industry. “We have seen a lot of changes. A lot of changes happened because of the pandemic. A lot of new in-demand skills came out resulting from the development, also resulting from the pandemic, and digital transformation and all these things,” PTTC Executive Director Nelly Nita Dillera said in a news release on Saturday, January 8.

Risk-based testing more practical with limited PH resources

The government opted to conduct risk-based testing for Covid-19 infections rather than mass testing that is deemed unsustainable. Thus, said Presidential Adviser for Covid-19 Response and testing czar Secretary Vince Dizon on Monday, adding that given the country's current resources, massive testing is impractical. “Assuming that we are testing 80 to 85,000 a day and we will increase that to 100,000 a day, times 2,000 of the current cap and average test for PCR. That would be 200 million per day. In a span of 10 days, that will be two billion already)," Dizon explained at the “Laging Handa” briefing.

Omicron has replaced Delta as dominant variant of the COVID-19 virus – Duque

The highly contagious Omicron variant has replaced the Delta variant as the dominant variant of the COVID-19 virus in the Philippines, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in the taped weekly briefing with President Rodrigo Duterte that aired late Monday night. This is based on the latest genomic sequencing run on Jan. 3. “Based on our last run of genome sequencing, 60% of the samples sequenced were found positive for Omicron variant,” Duque said in Filipino.

Phl now at ‘critical risk’ for Covid-19

From its “minimal risk” classification last month, the Philippines escalated to “critical risk” due to exponential growth in coronavirus cases believed to be driven by the Omicron variant. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III announced on Monday that the country’s risk classification had elevated to “critical” after seeing a massive 3,663 percent two-week growth rate and a 690-percent increase in the seven-day moving average of reported daily cases. The average daily attack rate or the number of infected people per 100,000 population also climbed to 10.47, he said.

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