MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night assured the public that the national government is trying its best to keep the Philippine economy afloat after it contracted by a record 9.5 percent in 2020.
In a pre-recorded public address, Duterte admitted that the country’s economy is “sinking deeper and deeper” into recession amid lockdowns caused by the prevailing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic but noted that other countries are also experiencing the same financial crises.
“We are sinking deeper and deeper pero hindi lang rin tayo (but it’s not just us)…Pero (But) we are trying our very best to keep us afloat. Ang ekonomiya natin, mga kabuhayan, masama talaga. Biro mo naman, ilang taong walang trabaho (Our economy, our livelihood is in bad shape. Many people lost their jobs). The economy of the Philippines is in bad shape but as I have said, it is not only the Philippines who suffers. We in the world are suffering with everybody,” he said.
Citing Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, he said Filipino workers lose a daily income amounting to PHP2 billion due to pandemic-related lockdowns.
“According to the Secretary of Finance, araw-araw, ngayon hanggang matapos ‘tong Covid, araw-araw (every day until Covid ends) we are losing PHP2-billion na pera para sana ‘yun sa mga tao (that could have been earned by people) the Filipino workers, would have earned that money kung ang ekonomiya natin gumagalaw (if our economy was moving),” he added.
Duterte, however, appealed to the public to keep their faith in his administration, noting that government is doing its best to balance Filipinos’ health and the economy.
On Jan. 28, the Philippine Statistics Authority said the local economy, as measured by its gross domestic product (GDP), sank by 9.5 percent in 2020, the nation’s worst economic performance since after World War II.
Presidential Spokesperson Roque, however, expressed optimism about the country’s recovery this year, saying the economic growth is projected to reach 6.5 to 7.5 percent in 2021 and 8 to 10 percent in 2022 if the reopening of the economy will be sustained.
“Inaasahan natin next year kung patuloy ang pagbubukas ng ating ekonomiya, ang estimate ng ating economic planners ay magiging positive tayo (We expect that by next year, if the opening of the economy will continue, our economic planners estimated positive growth),” he said.
He reminded the public to continue to observe health protocols, such as wearing of face masks, face shields, frequent hand-washing, and physical distancing from others, to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Many parts of the country are under varying degrees of lockdown since mid-March as the country is trying to control the spread of Covid-19 that has so far infected over 514,000 individuals nationwide.
Amid criticism over the government’s vaccine rollout, Duterte guaranteed that there are enough funds to pay for Covid-19 vaccines.
He said the country’s “greatest disadvantage” is that it is not as rich as Western countries that have already pre-ordered 80 percent of the global vaccine supply, but assured that vaccine doses are forthcoming.
“We have funds to pay for vaccines. Ang Asian Development Bank pati ang World Bank magpahiram sa atin para ibayad natin sa vaccine na bilhin natin (We have funds to pay for vaccines. The Asian Development Bank as well as the World Bank are lending us money to pay for the vaccines),” he said.
Duterte slammed critics claiming corruption in the government’s Covid-19 vaccine procurement anew, urging Filipinos not to believe in their false accusations.
“Do not be so gullible and basta maniwala nalang kayo (just believe in their) talk about corruption left and right. It starts with the big bang and ends with a whimper,” he said.
He also promised to prove that vaccine procurement and rollout will be done “in accordance with the rule of law.”
“You have a choice. Maniwala kayo sa kanila, o maniwala kayo sa amin. Kung maniwala kayo sa kanila, go ahead, sige walang nagpipigil sainyo. Ngayon, kung may naiwan na maniwala sa’min (Believe them, or believe us. If you believe them, go ahead, nobody’s going to stop you. Now, if there are some who still believe in us), just keep faith with us. At the end of the day, you will see that everything has been done in accordance with the rule of law,” he said.
Vaccine czar, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said the country has locked in 106 to 108 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines after he signed five term sheets with manufacturers.
The Philippines hopes to secure some 148 million doses, aside from the 40 million doses that will come from the World Health Organization-led Covax Facility, to inoculate an initial 50 to 70 million Filipinos this year.
Economic managers are optimistic that the Philippine economy will recover this year as it eyes to roll out its large-scale vaccination program starting this month. (PNA)