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Still facing risk but ‘worst is over’ — Lopez

The country is still facing challenges this year that may hamper economic growth due to the pandemic but the “worst is over” last year.

Trade and Industry Sec. Ramon Lopez said the economic recovery has begun since the reopening of economic activities due to relaxed quarantine measures amid the coronavirus disease 2019 health crisis.

“We are still facing risk but I would also say that the worst is over. 2020 was really the height of the lockdown and we saw the economy really dropping. But ever since, we have seen signs of recovery from GDP (gross domestic product) to unemployment rates,” Lopez said.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the country recorded a 17.7 percent unemployment rate in April last year, the highest since 2005.

It slowed down to 10 percent in July when the government reopened economic and business activities.

After plummeting by 49.9 percent in April, export revenues recovered by 2.2 percent in September and 3 percent in November.

The GDP contraction also slowed down from a 16.9-percent decline in the second quarter of 2020 to -11.9 percent in the following quarter.

“We have been reopening the economy gradually and safely towards the latter part of 2020. That is the reason why we have been seeing signs of recovery (in) many aspects,” the DTI chief added.

He said the government has signed deals with Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers and the immunization program would be rolled out this year.

“Yes, there are still challenges but we expect the vaccines at least can provide some level of prevention despite new variants coming out. We simply just have to manage the virus and the policy of the Philippine leaders right now is to be able to have an attitude of risk management rather than risk avoidance,” Lopez said.

He said he is also expecting the country to benefit from regional trade deals, including the recently concluded Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

The DTI, he added, is also looking into possible participation in the Comprehensive and Progressing Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership).

“Our intention really is to look into that regional bloc so that we can also benefit from a freer global trade bloc that (the) CPTPP has,” Lopez said.

Meanwhile, he welcomed the announcement of United States President-elect Joe Biden on a $1.9-trillion stimulus package for their economic recovery.

“Definitely, we need America, the biggest economy in the world, to really be out there and recovering fast as well. The recovery of America is also a recovery for the world and for other countries of the world,” he said.