Economic recovery seen to get ‘significant’ boost from shift to Alert Level 1

Photo from Business World

By Business World

Business groups expect the Philippine economy’s recovery will get a “significant” boost as the country transitions to a “new normal.”

At the same time, the government on Monday reminded the public that the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is not yet over, even as the National Capital Region (NCR) and 38 other areas will be under Alert Level 1 starting today (March 1).

“The removal of restrictions on the movement of people would assist enterprises in returning to pre-pandemic production and sales operations, particularly those where working from home is not possible or practical. With no more capacity constraints, service businesses, such as restaurants and retail shops, would regain lost patronage,” Alfredo E. Pascual, Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) president, said in a statement on Monday.

Under Alert Level 1, all business establishments can operate at full capacity.

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said on-site work is highly encouraged under Alert Level 1 to help the country’s economic recovery.

“We are highly encouraging on-site work. Work from home is allowed and optional… We are encouraging people to go to the office since it is included in reviving the economy,” he said in Filipino during a radio interview.

MAP’s Mr. Pascual said allowing people to return to their offices will also “address mental health issues caused by prolonged isolation and a lack of regular face-to-face interactions.”

“Of course, the required minimum health and safety protocols (vaccination, ventilation, social distancing, etc.) must be followed. Coordination with relevant sectors, such as transportation, is needed to avoid bottlenecks in mobility,” he added.

In a mobile phone message, Makati Business Club Executive Director Francisco “Coco” Alcuaz, Jr. said the business sector welcomes the continued lowering of COVID-19 restrictions.

“On-site work will be a much-awaited boon to retail, food, transport, and other businesses, accelerating economic recovery,” he said, adding that companies should still consider to find a way to incorporate remote work.

Meanwhile, Steven T. Cua, Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association (Pagasa) president, said in a mobile phone message that Alert Level 1 will hopefully lift consumer and business confidence.

Mr. Cua, however, said health and safety protocols should still be implemented such as requiring vaccination cards and maintaining social distancing. There should still be constant reminders about the threat of COVID-19, he added.

“People have trickled into the malls but not in levels before the lockdowns. For stand-alone supermarkets, the trickle is more tempered as people miss the nonessentials (eating out, cafés and bars, children’s arcades, etc.) more since everyone was deprived of these activities for a longer period of time,” Mr. Cua said.

Rosemarie B. Ong, Philippine Retailers Association (PRA) president, said in a mobile phone message that retailers see the looser mobility restrictions as key to the sector’s recovery.

“It is a welcome note for us and allow all retailers to fully recover. We see improvements in reported COVID-19 cases and we see it as a relief and good news. We are hoping for a strong recovery,” Ms. Ong said.

The Philippine economy expanded by 7.7% in the fourth quarter of 2021 as most parts of the country were under Alert Level 2 from November to December. This brought full-year growth to 5.6%, a turnaround from the record 9.6% contraction in 2020.

The government is targeting 7-9% growth for 2022.

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