Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said Wednesday he remains optimistic over the Philippines’ “promising” prospects for a strong economic rebound this year, driven in large part by heightened efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic through the government’s scaled-up vaccination program.
Reiterating his joint statement earlier this week with his fellow economic managers on the economy’s second-quarter performance, Dominguez said this strong rebound with a gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 11.8 percent “is driven by more than just base effects” and is “the result of a better balance between meeting the exigencies of economic concerns and the health requirements of our COVID-19 response.”
“Overall, prospects for a strong economic rebound in 2021 remain promising. Although there may be speed bumps ahead, we are well on our way to the path of solid recovery. As soon as the infections are contained, we will be ready to rise as one with your help,” Dominguez said.
Dominguez said the mass vaccination program is headed “in the right direction” as the Philippines has been receiving a steady supply of vaccines from multiple sources and has been inoculating its adult population at a steady pace, with a current record as of Aug. 5 of 710,482 shots administered in a single day.
“We have endured much since the outbreak of this pandemic. But I am fairly certain that we have gone through the worst part of this global health emergency. In the second quarter of this year, our GDP (gross domestic product) grew by 11.8 percent. This is the best quarterly performance in more than 30 years,” Dominguez said at the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the “Save Lives, Donate Vaccines to the Philippines” project.
The fundraising project is spearheaded by the Filipino-American Chamber of Commerce Foundation (FACCF), the Coalition of Filipino American Chambers of Commerce (COFACC) and the Filipino-American Chamber organizations.
Its goal is to raise US500,000 for the vaccine procurement and COVID-19 testing facilities of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (PhilExport) and Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP).
The campaign was launched Wednesday ( Aug. 11), and will end on Dec. 15.
“We are extremely grateful to the Filipino-American Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Coalition of Filipino-American Chambers of Commerce for organizing this fundraising effort to help the Philippines procure more COVID-19 vaccines for its people. This initiative will go a long way in helping our local businesses bounce back quickly from the impact of the contagion,” Dominguez said.
He cautioned that the virus driving the pandemic has been “extraordinarily resilient,” forcing the government to currently reimpose a two-week Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in high-risk areas as a proactive response to slow the spread of COVID-19’s Delta variant and “preclude the return of stricter quarantines down the road.”
“But even as we continue with quarantine measures to prevent surges in infection, we have been scaling up the vaccination program to protect our people. This is the most potent weapon we have against this unseen enemy,” he said.
Dominguez pointed out that in the 16 weeks from March to June of this year, the Philippines has received 17.5 million doses of vaccines and inoculated 10.7 million adult Filipinos.
Moreover, in the six weeks from July 1 to August 9, an additional 21.1 million doses of vaccines arrived in the country, with about 14.2 million people inoculated during this period.
He said the country’s running total of vaccine supply has already reached 38.6 million doses, with 24.9 million shots successfully administered as of Aug. 9.
Of the total, 13.3 million Filipinos received their first doses while 11.6 million people are now fully vaccinated with their second shots.
Dominguez said that with the expected arrival of an additional 148 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the remaining months of 2021, the government is confident it can fully inoculate 100 percent of the country’s adult population this year.
The government is also working to begin the vaccination of children ages 12 to 17 in the coming months to enable the country to proceed one step closer to achieving herd immunity, Dominguez said.
Dominguez said that while he cannot give the business community a clear timetable on the full reopening of economy, given the possible future mutations of the virus, he can assure it though of the government’s readiness to support local enterprises through expanded credit, lower interest rates and by ensuring fiscal prudence in managing the country’s financial resources.
He cited the massive tax relief provided by Republic Act (RA) No. 11534 or the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Law, which immediately cuts the corporate income tax (CIT) rate for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), from 30 percent to 20 percent, and to 25 percent for the rest of businesses.
These hefty tax reductions effectively gives out almost P100 billion-worth of tax relief annually to the corporate sector to retain jobs and for investments, Dominguez said.
The Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act, on the other hand, has been giving back to 99 percent of taxpayers another P100 billion in tax savings every year as a result of the lower personal income tax (PIT) rates mandated under this law, he added.
“All of these interventions will bring better business conditions in the near term,” Dominguez said.