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Business

Government, private sector urged to strengthen partnership

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The declining number of fresh COVID infections is an opportunity for the government and the private sector to ramp up their partnership to revive the economy, increase international trade and encourage more foreign investments.

This is the main takeaway from the second day of Stratbase ADR Institute’s Pilipinas Conference 2021 weeklong series of online sessions with the theme Philippine Trade Relations in the Pandemic Context.

“Walang susuko. Walang iwanan (Nobody gives up. Nobody gets left behind),” said Sergio Ortis-Luis Jr., president of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP).

“We recognize that the road to full recovery is marred by political drama, supply chain disruptions, continued health concerns, and connectivity issues. But as in previous crises, we do not freeze. We look for ways forward.”

Ortiz-Luis said ECOP had formalized a joint resolution, with other business and labor groups, which called for 10 urgent interventions directed to government for appropriate action. These interventions range from responding to the demand of our healthcare workers, stepping up the vaccination program, allowing full operations of public transportation, to addressing corruption issues.

George Barcelon, chairman of the Philippine Exporters Confederation, said the country’s export performance had been gradually improving – up from a 50 percent plunge in April 2020 to an 18 percent increase year-on-year, in the first nine months.

“The Philippine export industry is resilient, recovering, and open for business, as we continue to evolve as a reliable, competitive global supplier in this new normal. We are able to move on from surviving to thriving,” Barcelon said.

Still, there are more challenges to hurdle, he said, citing the global logistics crisis which has hit the exporters by surprise in the past six months. “Freight trade surged 500 percent from pre-pandemic levels, leading some MSMEs to temporarily stop operations.”

He emphasized the importance of the export industry in rebuilding the economy. “We should innovate through digital transformation, technologies upgrade, and the empowerment of exporters for long-term global competitiveness,” Barcelon said.

Rizalina Mantaring, Treasurer of the Makati Business Club, said the country can increase trade and invite more foreign investment by opening up the economy.

She emphasized that the private sector is the best partner that the government can tap because of its access to capital and to technology, and because it is a source of innovation. “The pandemic has decimated a lot of our industries,” she said. “We need all the investments that we can attract, both local and foreign.”

This sentiment is echoed by Aniceto Orbeta Jr., president of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, who said that aside from attracting foreign investments to increase the scale of high-tech firms in the country, we also need to increase the avenues for knowledge transfer.

In his closing remarks, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez acknowledged that the trajectory of recovery depends on the policies and programs adopted in response to the pandemic.

“These include keeping the markets open for trade and investments, ensuring the smooth flow of goods and services, delivering a massive vaccination drive and easing mobility restrictions,” he said.

Stratbase ADRi president professor Dindo Manhit said the country may have to shift to a more investment-led economy and scale up its role in the global supply chain even has historical growth has mostly been consumption-led.

“We also need to recalibrate our growth trajectory by strengthening cooperation with its long-standing economic partners, including the EU, through trade and investments,” he said.

“This is a favorable time to shift the Philippines’ trade partners to address the widening deficit and recover from the economic downturn from the pandemic,” Manhit said.

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