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The Department of the Interior and Local Government, through the LGA’s online talakayan platform brought the public and private sector together to discuss ways on revitalizing the economy amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. DILG Usec. Marivel Sacendoncillo,in her opening remarks emphasized that both sectors are critical at this time of crisis especially in responding and preparing for the post-scenario. “It’s a partnership, not a battle”, she said.

Additionally, she mentioned that seeking solutions through innovative means is essential because “successful private-public partnership is a product of preparation which can only happen with trust and fairness.

She also highlighted the lessons brought to light by the crisis in reevaluating what is considered normal and changes that need to be implemented.

Government’s recovery plans bared

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Sec. Chua introduced the PH-Progreso Program for recovery with the message that this crisis need to be turned into an opportunity. He presented the three (3) recovery approach stages namely emergency stage, recovery stage, and resiliency stage.

Sec. Chua emphasized that currently, we are experiencing the emergency stage. Hence, the enactment of the Bayanihan I which is characterized by a budget and procurement flexibility, subsidy grant to the poor, support to key sectors, health system, capacity, insurance, and frontliners has been used.

In light of the crisis, Sec. Chua informed the participants that the country entered 2020 with strong growth aspects due to conservative and responsible fiscal management, tax and structural reforms, and the Build, Build, Build (BBB) program.

However, due to the adverse shocks the country has faced during the first quarter, the economic performance of the country has slowed down. Despite this, Sec. Chua gave an assurance that by the third and fourth quarters, the Philippine economy will improve accordingly.

Sec. Lopez from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) discussed the relevant Memorandum Circulars (MCs) affecting trade and industry such as the MC on price freeze, anti-hoarding, and anti-panic buying.

He added the discussion on DTI MC 20-08: Ensuring unhampered movement of cargo and transit of personnel of business establishments allowed to operate during the ECQ of Luzon which ensured sufficient food supply in the country.

Sec. Lopez advocated for buying local products to induce local jobs instead of exports. In addition, he proudly informed the participants that the Philippines is the second fastest growing economy in ASEAN during 2019.

After this, it is possible for us to recover. Kaya natin to. Even the investment figures, it is still coming even if it slowed down during the quarantine period but it will definitely bounce back”, he added.

MGen. Padilla from the National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 updated the participants on the National Action Plan. He emphasized  that the overall goal is to contain, to prevent the spread, and to eliminate the threat of the COVID-19 in order to protect the people and mitigate the social, economic, and security impacts of the pandemic.

“The overall strategy incorporates a nationally enabled, LGU led structure, people-centered, and a whole of nation approach. Public health and safety are put on top above all”, he added.

MGen. Padilla reiterated the operational concept on the end to end T3 management referring to the steps: prevent, trace, detect, isolated, and treat as a national campaign.

We put emphasis on cascading a strategy on the people adapting to the minimum health standards to see the invisible enemy”, he furthered.

MGen. Padilla also called that the testing capacity will be increased which can be done through a partnership between private and public sectors.

Ang pagbubukas ng ekonomiya ay dapat gawin sa dahan dahan na pamamaraan para sa ating pagbabalik sa new normal, makakayanan ulit natin. Kaya natin ito dahil history has proven that we Fiipinos are resilient at nagbabayanihan upang makabangon”, he said. 

On the part of the DOH, Usec. Villaverde reiterated the five-point strategy of DOH based on the Administrative Order 2020-0015, the risk-based public health standards for COVID-19 mitigation. In particular, the strategies are to increase resilience, to stop transmission, to reduce contact rate, to shorten the duration of infection, and to enhance quality, consistency, and affordability of care provision.

The COVID-19 response has proved that it is a collective battle. No single agency can respond on its own. Non-synchronization will delay the recovery and non-pharmaceutical interventions shall serve as the backbone during the outbreak”, DOH Usec. Villaverde stated.

Furthermore, the LGUs were called to ensure strict implementation of the health standards, to monitor compliance, to coordinate with DOH and non-government agencies, to develop local ordinances, and to immediately disseminate the guidelines to all units within their respective jurisdictions.

Usec. Aragon from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) reiterated the interim guidelines formulated with DTI on workplace prevention and control of COVID-19 based on the five-point strategy of DOH from the AO 2020-0015.

Usec. Aragon discussed the employers’ duties highlighting that the sufficient provision of resources and necessities for a healthy work arrangement must be ensured as well as the strict application of company policies on COVID-19 precautions.

Meanwhile, the employees were called to comply accordingly to the minimum health protocols. As for the vulnerable workers, Usec. Aragon encouraged a work from home policy.

Private sector’s role in the recovery efforts put forward

Ambassador Yujuico, President of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), enlightened the participants on the roadmap to recovery guide for government and business sectors.

He emphasized that the focus is on the 1.3 million micro-small-medium enterprises (MSMEs) that comprise approximately 5 million workers all over the country. “MSMEs have dealt with a severe economic blow”, he mentioned.

According to Ambassador Yujuico, the economy is now in a steep downturn. “Hence, it’s a matter of what we can and should do to slow down or stop the downward spiral and get the economy moving again. Let our workers back working to earn income to have money for their necessities”, he said.

The critical elements to jump start the economy was highlighted, having the need for MSMEs to have a working capital to start their business and business establishments must be compliant to the DOH’s minimum health standards.

The PCCI has petitioned the Bankers’ Association of the Philippines and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to provide support to the MSMEs by extending the maturity of loans, principal and interest to 1 year to allow the MSMEs a breathing room to restart their business.

Moreover, PCCI has also participated in discussions on various economic stimulus plans being discussed by the legislative and executive branches of the government. Lastly, Ambassador Yujuico stated that PCCI stands ready to work with the government to reach out to all the MSMEs in the country.

Mr. Barry Paulino of the Philippine Construction Association, Inc., on the other hand, shed light on the construction industry as the biggest contributor in the country’s economy for the last 10 years.

He explained the construction guidelines highlighting the welfare of the workers and mentioned that doable projects under the new normal shall be considered. He called for the revision of projects’ execution plans if necessary.

Dr. Jaime Aristotle Alip, Founder and Chairman Emeritus of CARD MRI expounded the CARD MRI’s approach in microfinancing to provide small loans to the low-income sectors for their livelihood. He said it is made possible through their 4 major microfinance institutions, 3 banks, and a microfinance non-government organization.

Currently, Dr. Alip said that they are operating in 1,580 cities and municipalities as well as 40,450 barangays to which they have provided an estimated 13 billion pesos loan.

Furthermore, Mr. Saturnino Belen, Chairman of the First Asia Venture Capital Inc. commented to put things in context due to the drastic changes brought about by the lockdown and called on everyone to focus on flattening the curve.

In a pilot’s perspective, he said “any landing that you can walk away from is a good landing” and explained that if we can walk away alive from the current health crisis, then it means that the government’s response is effective.

Finally, Dr. Eddie Dorotan, the Executive Director of Galing Pook Foundation uttered the need to adapt and innovate wherein the economic development is not only for the few, that farmers and workers are not being left behind, and that all children have the opportunity to go to school, and people have enough money to buy medicine.

He enumerated lessons the crisis has taught us, having poverty and COVID-19 as common economies.  He is optimistic that the country will succeed through Bayanihan, and that the pandemic provides an opportune time to adapt and innovate for an equitable economy. He also reiterated the need for the country to bounce back by increasing the gross domestic product (GDP) and prioritizing health, education, and productivity.

DILG’s call for cooperation

As a final note, DILG Sec. Año called on the participants to continue supporting the government through an enhanced public-private partnership in this time of crisis. 

Let us unlock hidden doors of opportunity and emerge from these challenging times more resilient and hopeful to see the flame of nationhood rekindle as we step into a new life and a new direction for a new and better future for all”, he concluded.

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