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Business

Economic recovery in 2022

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony F. Katigbak - The Philippine Star

As we wind down 2021, our sights are already set on 2022. It feels like the past two years went by in a blur, and while it felt long, it also feels like the blink of an eye. Here we are on the precipice of a new chapter. Hopefully, one that is healthier for the entire world.

In the country, we have been slowly opening up more and more, and quarantine levels have been decreasing. Last week, we finally removed our face shield mandates and focused on masks and social distancing for safety protocols. Kids were allowed out again, as long as they have a fully vaccinated parent in tow.

So, as we move forward, how will we focus on reviving the economy in 2022? Several industries are already trying to find ways to jumpstart the coming year. The big one is travel. The continued reopening of the Philippines to travel and tourism is a solid first step towards economic recovery in the months and years ahead.

Before the pandemic, the tourism industry accounted for a sizeable percentage of the country’s GDP. But when borders were closed and quarantines were set, this was one of the hardest-hit industries. Many tourism workers had to look for alternative means of livelihood while awaiting the reopening of the industry.

It was heartening to see other industries like the BPO sector opening their doors to displaced tourist workers during the height of COVID. In Palawan, the global BPO Sitel Group employed several displaced tourist workers from the tourism heavy region, while sites like the Underground River and other tourist spots remained closed.

This example and many others like it were really how we were able to survive and move on despite the challenges of the past couple of years. We survived because we helped one another. So many people stepped up to assist those that needed it the most.

Looking ahead, the government is seeking ways to bolster the reopening tourism industry. Some steps they are taking include removing mandatory testing for fully vaccinated tourists from select countries and removing quarantine for citizens from green-listed countries.

Simultaneously, they are creating special travel lanes or bubbles from yellow list areas and shortening the quarantine period for fully vaccinated citizens from yellow countries. This is a big step, as many Filipinos are hindered from traveling home due to the current quarantine requirements for them when they arrive.

With all of this in place, the country hopefully looks at stronger and safer tourism next year. While it’s essential to help reinvest in the economy, we also have to be very careful and safe moving forward. The last thing we need is to slide backward again.

And speaking of the BPO industry, the entire IT-BPM sector is another significant economic driver and will continue to be one in 2022. With a strong showing and dedicated commitment to operating in the Philippines, the BPO sector continued to exhibit growth in 2021 despite the challenges. This is only set to get even stronger in the year ahead.

The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) is also hoping to make it easier and more streamlined for international workers. They entered into an agreement for smoother and faster issuance of vias for foreign investors in the country.

Under the new arrangement, a one-stop-shop will be put up in the PEZA office in Pasay (in the same building as DFA passport releasing) to help expedite the processing, approval, and issuance of PEZA visas, reducing the wait time from one month to 10 days.

This will undoubtedly make it much easier for foreign investors to come into the Philippines and potentially help pave the way for faster operation expansion and more business and job offerings for Filipino customer experience professionals.

These are solid first steps. There is still a long road ahead to reviving and boosting the economy in 2022. We all need to do our part to keep safe to continue opening our doors and finding new ways forward.

As the economy begins the journey to recovery, we must maintain all of our safety protocols. Just because we are finally starting to open up again doesn’t mean we should stop. The safety protocols allow us to take these first steps, so let’s not waste them. Hopefully, there are no more steps back.

2022 ECONOMIC
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