DOF chief: Economy on way to recovery
“The economy actually is already beginning to recover. Our estimate is that we hit the lowest part of the economy which was April, May. That’s already the lowest as we can see,”Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said.
KJ Rosales
DOF chief: Economy on way to recovery
Christina Mendez, Mary Grace Padin (The Philippine Star) - August 1, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine economy is beginning to recover, with prices of goods “relatively low” and the peso emerging as Asia’s strongest, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said yesterday.

It was a scenario Dominguez shared with President Duterte and other officials at a meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) on Thursday.

A video recording of the meeting – including Duterte’s address to the nation – was aired yesterday.

In his recorded address, the President announced the latest quarantine status of different regions in the country.

Metro Manila will remain under general community quarantine as well as some areas in Calabarzon, including Batangas, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal, until Aug. 15.

Dominguez said the areas account for about 67 percent of the country’s economy.

“The economy actually is already beginning to recover. Our estimate is that we hit the lowest part of the economy which was April, May. That’s already the lowest as we can see,” Dominguez said.

“In the meantime, we do not have a problem with liquidity. In other words, may pera (there’s money). People are not short – I mean the economy is not short of money, number one,” he said.

“Number two, the inflation is relatively low. It’s within our target. Number three, our peso is the strongest in Asia. The strongest currency in Asia is the Philippine peso. It’s stronger than the Japanese yen,” Dominguez added.

“So, people have faith in us. We are able also to finance it by borrowing locally and borrowing internationally. So we are in good shape to take this – to overcome this crisis,” he said.

The second quarter economic growth data is expected to be out next week. Lockdowns and other quarantine measures have severely harmed the economy, especially the consumer sector. But as the economy groaned under the weight of quarantine restrictions, the government approved a gradual reopening of businesses – but subject to strict health protocols, including new work arrangements.

The government first imposed a Luzon-wide lockdown on March 17.

“So, it’s already picking up now and we are going to be seeing a pickup in business activity as we go on. Actually, it’s starting to pick up already now,” Dominguez said.

As cases of COVID-19 infection continue to grow, Dominguez said the government’s response is strict enforcement of minimum health standards in various sectors.

“We have a little – a few problems. Among them, number one, like transportation, because we have to have more transportation available. We have to encourage people also to start spending – to start spending money so that the economy can start picking up,” he said.

Dominguez also assured the public that the government has enough resources – and is in good fiscal standing – to deal with the health crisis and ease its impact on livelihood and on the economy in general.

‘Agri-preneurship’ pushed

Meanwhile, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion and Agriculture Secretary William Dar have pushed for “agripreneurship” under the so-called new normal.

The two made the proposal yesterday at a special agri-webinar that explored various business models and livelihood opportunities in the agriculture sector.

The webinar featured top government officials and seasoned agri-entrepreneurs with over 500 Zoom attendees and more than 17,000 Facebook Live viewers.

“Agriculture is an insulated sector in a sense. You can see the opportunities in agriculture. People are going back to basics. The opportunity for many who have lost their jobs is to move into agri – whether you are in rural areas or whether you are at home, you can start your own agribusiness. This is the time when agribusiness, agri negosyo should shine,” Concepcion said.

“People who have lost their jobs can create an opportunity. Let’s open up your business, contract growing or farming. This is the fastest way to embrace people who have lost their jobs,” he said. “Allow them small packages [and] to be part of your ecosystem. When you do that, through contract growing or farming, you’re the mentor that also helps provide funding. The more entrepreneurs can open up [and] develop smaller packages, [the more we] allow them to scale up faster.”

Dar, for his part, said that despite the pandemic “we need to uplift the spirit of optimism and positive attitude for us to be victorious in this war against COVID-19. We are fighting this from the point of view of ensuring food security to every Filipinos.”

Dar outlined the department’s program for crops, livestock, poultry and fisheries, and Plant, Plant, Plant, which aims to increase food sufficiency levels for all commodities.

“This is the opportunity I’m trying to institutionalize: an inclusive agribusiness ecosystem in various provinces,” he said. “A whole-of-nation approach is necessary to build up more agribusinesses, from micro to small to medium enterprises within agriculture.”

He also discussed the various loan programs offered by DA, including the expanded SURE-Aid and Recovery Project which has been renamed to Mobilizing and Nurturing Agripreneurship (MANA), Agrinegosyo and KAYA which extends financing, mentoring and training support to agri-entrepreneurs.

Also at the webinar, Science Secretary Fortunato de la Peña discussed his department’s technology support and programs for agripreneurs, including P584 million worth of approved Niche Centers in the regions dedicated to R&D and 17 food innovation centers located across the country.

“This pandemic, it really propelled a discussion on a not so glamorous sector – agriculture – which has become mainstream, not only in the Philippines but in the whole world. I also want to help a lot of young people [who are] looking for a career; agriculture is really a profession to go into. Right now, there’s plenty of work. The work is so impactful,” Cherrie Atilano of AGREA said.

CARLOS DOMINGUEZ III
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