Duterte Signs EO on Economic Recovery

A teacher helps students at an elementary school in San Andres, Malate, Manila February 9. President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed an executive order on a 10-point agenda for economic recovery that includes the resumption of face-to-face classes. – FILIPINO STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte signed an executive order that sets a 10-point agenda aimed at accelerating the economy’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, just over three months before he leaves office.

“There is an urgent need to take economic recovery measures to maintain current economic gains, minimize the long-term negative impact of the pandemic and restore the country’s development trajectory,” said Executive Order (EO) No. 166, that of Mr Duterte on March 21. A copy was released on Wednesday.

The Philippine economy grew 5.6% in 2021, recovering from a 9.6% contraction in 2020. Economic managers are targeting GDP growth of 7-9% this year.

The 10-point policy agenda recommended by the Economic Development Cluster includes strengthening the country’s health capacity and accelerating the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination program. The EO stated that restrictions on the private sector’s use of COVID-19 vaccines will be eased.

It also emphasized the further reopening of the economy, the expansion of public transport capacities and the resumption of face-to-face classes.

To boost the local tourism industry, the government will tighten requirements for domestic travel, limiting them to vaccination cards or negative RT-PCR test results for unvaccinated people and a QR code that can be scanned by various contact-tracing apps.

The EO also sought to further relax international travel requirements, for example by providing quarantine exemptions for vaccinated foreign tourists.

Also, the government will prioritize passing legislation to accelerate digital transformation and enable the efficient launch of emergency programs during a pandemic.

“The proposed legislation may include measures such as establishing a standby fund for use during pandemics, giving powers to reallocate funds for pandemic response, removing caps on the use of funds for rapid response, relaxing data protection requirements and standardization of special risk pays, hazard pays and other appropriate forms of compensation for healthcare workers,” the EO explained.

Lawmakers are now on hiatus to prepare for the May election. Congress will resume session on May 23rd and adjourn on June 3rd.

The EO stated the government will shift the focus of decision-making and state reporting to “empowerment metrics” such as total number of severe and critical COVID-19 cases, mortality rate and total number of vaccinations. This will help the government avoid “unnecessary changes” to alert levels and encourage more people to get vaccinated.

The government will also develop a comprehensive pandemic response framework to ensure the country is prepared to deal with future pandemics.

Under the EO, all government departments, agencies, including state-owned enterprises and local government entities should ensure that their policies and programs are aligned with the 10-point policy agenda.

“These measures would help further open the economy towards greater normalcy, particularly to mitigate the adverse economic impactonwardsefects of the Russia-Ukraine conflictbottleict,” said Michael L. Ricafort, chief economist at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp business world in a Viber message, referring to the resumption of physical classes and the easing of requirements for international tourists.

Asian Institute of Management economist John Paolo R. Rivera said in a Viber message that the 10-point agenda would help spur Philippine economic growth “if implemented, e.gffiscientific and eonwardseffective.”

Antonio A. Ligon, a professor of law and economics at De La Salle University, said in a text message that while the EO’s goal is “commendable,” it’s unrealistic to say the 10-point policy will benefit us as experts to pre-pandemic levels immediately observed, the government did not respond effectively when the pandemic hit.” — Alyssa Nicole O Tan

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