Philippines Update: May 27, 2020

Philippines Update | May 27, 2020
Authors: Lillibeth Almonte-Arbez, Elizabeth Magsaysay-Crébassa, Marc Mealy, Norika Pineda, Kim Yaeger
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

May 28, 2020 (9.00AM-10.30AM Manila/SGT).  Crisis-Mode R&D: A Conversation with GSK, Dohme, and Sanofi. Developing a COVID-19 vaccine has brought together big business competitors. Sanofi Pasteur, GlaxoSmithKline and MSD discuss vaccine development and Philippine healthcare systems under crisis

May 29, 2020 (10AM-11.35AM Manila/SGT). SME Webinar in the Philippines: Digital Payments for SMEs in COVID-19. The US-ASEAN Business Council (the Council) is pleased to introduce a new initiative, SME Webinar Series in Response Covid-19 Crisis: The Importance of Digital Payment System to Support Small Business. This is a part of the ASEAN SME Academy (the Academy) and aims to help ASEAN SMEs cope with the Covid-19 crisis.

 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Multiple tax measures sought for COVID-19 economic recovery including CREATE, a revised version of the CITIRA tax bill package; a digital economy VAT; and a health sin tax

The bill on Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act (CITIRA) will now be called Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act or CREATE, based on a presentation of Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua to the House of Representatives. The CREATE bill would immediately reduce corporate income tax (CIT) from 30 percent to 25 percent in 2020 and let the next administration have flexibility over the next 5%, as opposed to the CITIRA yearly 1% tax rate cut from 2020 gradually reducing the current 30% corporate income tax rate to 20% by 2029.

Even though CREATE is proposed to be part of the economic recovery stage under the Philippine Program for Recovery with Equity (PH-Progreso), or the proposed economic recovery program of the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC), it is estimated that if the bill is enacted it would result in at least US$5.12 billion (P259.4 billion) reduction in expected revenue until 2022. The repackaged tax incentives will include an across-the-board lower tax rate for all firms and enhanced net operating loss carry-over (Nolco). Also included are targeted and timebound tax incentives to support Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Program. The bill also has a longer transition period or additional two years for existing firms receiving incentives. Business groups like the Makati Business Club (MBC) and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) support the immediate reduction of corporate tax rates.

The Philippine Congress will likely tackle these provisions during bicam with only a few days left before Congress breaks for recess on June 5. Before Congress resumed its session on May 4, the Senate tackled CITIRA at second reading with Senator Pia Cayetano leading the debate in February and March. There are no bills or conference committee reports on CREATE published on the websites of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The government is also looking at other ways to raise revenue and is studying a digital economy VAT and a new health sin tax. Under the digital economy VAT proposal, Acting Secretary Chua said all non-residents that are registered e-commerce platforms in the Philippines would be responsible for withholding the standard 12% VAT from clients. He said this proposal will provide additional revenue for the government of P15 billion in 2021, P16.6 billion in 2022 and P18.4 billion in 2023. On the health sin tax, the government is eyeing to implement a 6 percent indexation on sweetened beverage taxes while imposing an 8 percent ad valorem tax to junk food with high trans fat and high salt. This will give government additional revenue of P3.7 billion in 2021, P7.3 billion in 2022 and P11.7 billion in 2023.

Other revenue measures include bills sponsored by Representative Joey Salceda increasing the Motor Vehicle Road Users’ Tax (MVRUT), a proposal under House Bill 4695 that could provide government P40 billion in additional revenue in three years, and House Bill 5267 requiring Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs) to pay a 5 percent tax on gross receipts from their operations covered by the law granting their franchise. Foreign employees working for POGOs would also be presumed to earn P600,000 and pay a 25 percent tax on their salaries, wages, annuities, compensation, remuneration, honoraria, and allowances.

Duterte administration’s modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) rules

On May 25, President Duterte submitted his ninth weekly report to the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee complying with one of the conditions of the congressional grant of emergency powers during the COVID-19 pandemic. On May 15, the Inter-agency Task Force on Managing Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) issued Resolution No. 37 series of 2020 and the Omnibus Guidelines on the Implementation of Community Quarantine in the Philippines placing Metro Manila, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Zambales, Angeles City and Laguna are under a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) on May 16 until May 31. Section 3 of the Omnibus Guidelines provide that industries, establishments, and offices enumerated under Section 2(4) shall be allowed to operate or work at the same operational capacity and under the same conditions provided therein in areas under ECQ.

However, the following may operate at full operational capacity under an MECQ: media businesses; the production of cement and steel; business process outsourcing and export-oriented establishments, without need to set up onsite or near-site accommodation arrangements; mining and quarrying; e-commerce companies; postal, courier and delivery services; rental and leasing, other than real estate, such as vehicles and equipment for permitted sectors; employment activities that involve the recruitment and placement for permitted sectors; repair of computers, personal and household goods; and housing services activities.

Under the MECQ, the following activities or services are allowed to operate at fifty percent (50%) operational capacity, while encouraging work-from-home and other flexible work arrangement, where applicable:

a.       Other manufacturing industries classified as beverages, including alcoholics drinks; electrical machinery; wood products and furniture; non-metallic products; textiles and clothing/wearing apparels; tobacco products; paper and paper products; rubber and plastic products; coke and refined petroleum products; other non-metallic mineral products; computers, electronic and optical products; electrical equipment; machine1y and equipment; motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers; other transport equipment; and others;

b.       Real estate and leasing activities;

c.        Administrative and office support such as, but not limited to, providing photocopying and billing services;

d.       Other financial services such as, but not limited to, money exchange, insurance, microfinance and credit cooperatives, reinsurance and non-compulsory pension funding;

e.       Legal and accounting services;

f.        Management consultancy services or activities;

g.       Architectural and engineering activities that includes technical testing and analysis;

h.       Science and technology, and research and development;

i.         Recruitment and placement agencies for overseas employment.

j.         Advertising and market research;

k.        Computer programming and information management services;

l.         Publishing and printing services;

m.      Film, music and television production;

n.       Photography, fashion, and industrial, graphic and interior design;

o.       Wholesale and retail trade of vehicles and their parts and components, whether such vehicles be fuel, electric or human powered;

p.       Repair and maintenance of vehicles as defined in the immediate preceding provision as well as its parts or components;

q.       Malls and commercial centers, subject to the guidelines issued by the Department of Trade Industry;

r.        Dining and restaurants, but for delivery and take-out only;

s.        Hardware stores;

t.        Clothing and accessories;

u.       Bookstore and school and office supplies;

v.        Baby or infant care supplies;

w.       Pet food and pet care supplies;        

x.        Information technology, communications and electronic equipment;

y.        Flower, jewelry, novelty, antique and perfume shops; and

z.        Toy stores;

aa.      Firearms and ammunition trading establishments, subject to strict regulation of the Firearms and Explosives Office.

Hotels or similar establishments shall not be allowed to operate, except those accommodating the following:

a.       For areas outside Luzon, guests who have existing booking accommodations for foreigners as of 01 May 2020;

b.       Guest s who have existing long-term bookings;

c.        Distressed OFWs and stranded Filipinos or foreign nationals;

d.       Repatriated OFWs in compliance with approved quarantine protocols;

e.       Non-OFWs who may be required to undergo mandatory facility-based quarantine; and;

f.        Health care workers and other employees from exempted establishments under these Revised Omnibus Guidelines and applicable Memoranda from the Executive Secretary.

The new IATF rules introduce a zoning scheme that will be implemented by local government chiefs in MECQ or GCQ areas. Barangays, the smallest local government unit (LGU) in the Philippines, are classified into “critical”, “containment”, and buffer zones. Those with 20 or more cases are considered "critical zones" and will be under ECQ. Those with less cases are "containment zones" and will be under MECQ. Barangays adjacent to any area with COVID-19 cases are "buffer zones" where GCQ will be enforced. Barangays outside a buffer zone will be on modified GCQ. It is up to provincial governors and mayors to decide on the zoning classification of their barangays.

Under MECQ and ECQ, public transportation is suspended. Under MECQ, there will be no domestic flights and no inter-island travel. There will be limited international flights while Filipinos from abroad will be allowed to fly home. During the same two-week period from May 16-May 31, Cebu City and Mandaue City remain under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) which refers to the implementation of temporary measures imposing strictest limitations on the movement and transportation of people as well as the stringent regulation of operating industries and provision of essential goods and services. All other areas of the country will be under general community quarantine. Inter-island travel is allowed between two GCQ areas, with safety protocols enforced. Information on ECQ and GCQ is available in the Council’s previous update.

On a May 12 press briefing, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque introduced the term "modified general community quarantine," the lowest form of quarantine, which will be observed in "low-risk" provinces and cities. Under the modified GCQ (MGCQ), all flights resume but with health protocols enforced. No area has been declared under MGCQ so far.

Ramon “RJ” Jacinto is new DICT Undersecretary for Operations

On May 22, President Duterte appointed Ramon “RJ” Jacinto as new Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Undersecretary. Mr. Jacinto confirmed that he has accepted the President’s appointment. He would be focusing on three key areas, namely, the Independent Common Tower Policy, free Wi-Fi, and the implementation of the National Broadband Plan.

Mr. Jacinto was appointed presidential adviser in 2016 to lead the common tower policy and improve the country’s internet and mobile connectivity. He was chairman of the board of the Philippine Overseas Telecommunications Corp (POTC). He was president and CEO of the Philippine Communications Satellite Corporation (Philcomsat). He served as vice president of Security Bank, which was founded by his grandfather. He assisted his father in managing the family firm Jacinto Steel and established a roofing business, JacintoColor Steel Inc. Mr. Jacinto is also a musician and founder of radio station dzRJ.

Mr. Jacinto replaces Mr. Eliseo Rio Jr. who resigned in February reportedly due to controversy over confidential funds in DICT and his exclusion in the decision-making processes of the agency. President Duterte accepted Undersecretary Rio’s resignation last week. Local media has reported policy differences between Mr. Jacinto and Mr. Rio over common towers.

 
ADVOCACY UPDATE
 
 

CREATE bill Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (revised CITIRA)

Members are requested to submit comments on the proposed CREATE bill which the Duterte administration seeking to immediately reduce corporate income tax from 30% to 25% in 2020 instead of 1% every year until 2029. Attached is a comparison of CITIRA and CREATE bills.

Other salient features of CREATE are the following:

  1. the applicability of the net operating loss carryover (NOLCO) for losses incurred in 2020 is extended 5 years for non-large taxpayers from 3 years.  
  2. maintaining for up to 9 years the status quo for registered business activities enjoying the 5% gross income earned (GIE) incentive. The sunset period is prolonged by two years, from 2 to 7 years in CITIRA, to 4 to 9 years under CREATE.

Finance Secretary Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and key legislator allies of the Duterte administration are pushing for the passage of this bill by June 5th. Members are encouraged to resubmit comments/inputs they may have given to Philippine government agencies and other organizations so the Council could reinforce their policy positions on this tax reform.

Please email inputs and comments to the Philippines team by June 1st COB Manila.

Digital Economy Taxation proposed in the Philippine House of Representatives

On May 19, Representative Joey Sarte Salceda filed House Bill No. 6765 (copy attached), to be known as Digital Economy Taxation Act if enacted, in the Philippine House of Representatives seeking to establish a fiscal regime for digital services and amending sections 57, 105, 108, and 114 of the National Internal Revenue Code.  

The salient features of this bill include the following amendments and clarification:

  1. Definition of terms (section 3) - Digital advertising services, Electronic commerce platform, Network orchestrator, Services rendered electronically, Subscription-based services.
  2. Withholding of Tax at Source (section 57) – The network orchestrator shall withhold tax on taxable income/revenue derived through a membership in a network orchestrator system.
  3. Persons liable (section 105) – Any person who, in the course of trade or business, sells, barters, exchanges, leases goods or properties, including those digital or electronic in nature, renders services including those rendered electronically, and any person who imports shall be subject to the value-added tax (VAT)…(emphasis supplied).
  4. Section 108. The phrase "sale or exchange of services" means the performance of all kinds of services in the Philippines for others for a fee, remuneration or consideration, whether rendered electronically or otherwiseincluding the supply by any resident or non-resident person of digital advertising services such as online advertisement services, provision of ad space, any other facility or service for online advertisement; the supply by any resident or non-resident person of subscription-based services; the supply of services that can be delivered through an information infrastructure, such as the internet.
  5. The value-added tax withheld under the new section shall be remitted within ten (10 days) following the end of the month when withholding was made.
  6. The standard VAT, currently set at 12%, will be applied to digital services as defined (SEC 6).
  7. The bill requires that those who render digital services must do so through a resident agent or a representative office in the Philippines (SEC 8).
  8. A non-resident person shall have the privilege of doing business in the Philippines as a network orchestrator and/or as an electronic commerce platform exclusively through a representative office or an agent which shall be a resident corporation in the Philippines. Revenues derived from the aforesaid services shall, for tax purposes, be revenues generated by the representative office or agent (SEC 9).
  9. This Act shall take effect immediately upon its publication in the Official Gazette or in at least two (2) newspapers of general circulation in the Philippines (SEC 13).

If unchallenged in the House of Representatives, this bill will be heard and deliberated on in the Senate as part of the bicameral legislative process in the Philippines. There is political pressure to look for additional sources of government revenue as part of the COVID-19 Philippine economic recovery.

Please submit your input in the following confidential form by June 1 COB Manila to ensure time to prepare and submit Council position paper before Congress breaks for recess on June 5. Contact Kim Yaeger, Lilibeth Almonte-Arbez and Michaela Wong with any questions.

Philippine Economic Stimulus Act (PESA)

Members are encouraged to submit comments to the PESA bill which has been the subject of a Council Call for Input since May 7. The Philippine Congress, which resumed its regular session on May 4, is also looking at economic recovery. The House of Representatives has an economic stimulus bill (attached) entitled "Philippine Economic Stimulus Act” (PESA), a consolidated bill which seeks to appropriate over Php1.24 trillion (US$24 billion) in loans, subsidies, sectoral assistance, and infrastructure spending. Pertinent features of PESA include:

Wage subsidy for two months (Sec. 6) for critically impacted businesses with provision for paid leave for employees who contracted COVID-19 (Sec. 7);

  1. Presidential authority to suspend, reduce or waive the imposition of regulatory fees and charges (Sec. 8);
  2. Bridging loans for micro, small, and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs) and agri-fishery enterprises (Secs. 11-12);
  3. Assistance in the form of incentives, interest-free loans, grants, education, and promotions to primary tourism enterprises (Sec. 13) and to import and export industries (Sec. 14);
  4. Adoption of zero tariff rates on essential imported raw materials and temporary suspension of export percentage requirements for export enterprises (Sec. 15);
  5. Establishment of a fund as an expanded government guarantee program for critically-impacted businesses (Sec. 16) and of the National Emergency Investment Corporation to assist firms facing bankruptcy or insolvency (Sec. 17);
  6. Interest-free loan program to assist MSMEs, non-essential businesses under the enhanced community quarantine, and other affected sectors (Sec. 18);
  7. Enhancement of the Build, Build, Build program for infrastructure projects related to universal health care, education, and food security; and
  8. Grant of authority of the Central Bank and Securities and Exchange Commission to adopt measures to relax regulatory and statutory restrictions and requirements.

According to AAMBIS-OWA Party-List Rep. Sharon S. Garin, who co-chairs the House’s Defeat COVID-19 committee economic stimulus cluster, the latest draft of the PESA proposes about P475 billion (US$9.4 billion) in the first year of the intervention period of 2020-2022 and is currently pending at committee. Marikina Rep. Stella Luz A. Quimbo and Albay Rep. Jose Maria Clemente S. Salceda earlier proposed their own versions of an economic stimulus bill which were consolidated into the proposed Philippine Economic Stimulus Act (PESA). Albay Representative Edcel C. Lagman filed House Bill 6693, which if passed will be known as the COVID-19 Response Act, providing for a P1-trillion ($19.79 billion) post-pandemic economic stimulus package.

Please email the Philippines team by May 29thCOB Manila.
 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
National Affairs
Next cash aid to benefit 20.3 million Households

COVID-19
Palace: Three-month extension of Bayanihan law ‘ideal
PH to start soon clinical trials on Avigan
2.7 million plus workers affected by pandemic
House panel set to OK 3 measures to respond to COVID-19 crisis
Garin backs more testing for returning workforce
12-day backlog in Covid-19 tests still hounding DOH
Covid-19 delays PHL-China talks on oil, gas deal
Virus, ASF impact on global trade cuts 4-mo meat imports
Philippine economic backbone faces coronavirus axe
PHL economy may lose up to P1.2T
Deeper budget cuts expected
PHL firms lost P875 billion in revenue from ECQ
Neda, DOF: NG needs P734 billion for stimulus after Covid damage
IAEECC mandates 10% energy saving goal to all govt agencies
Rules eased to boost MSME lending
Small firms seek support as lockdown continues

Defense & Security
Fire-hit PH Navy ship to extend stay in India for 3 weeks for repair
The Philippine Defense Market - Attractiveness, Competitive Landscape and Forecasts to 2025

Economics
PCCI seeks 5-year NOLCO also for large corporations
Costlier food cuts deep into wallets of the poor in April
Inflation impact on poor picks up in April
Economic team proposes P131-B in relief measures, P711-B to revive economy
Forced closure of ABS-CBN may hurt investor confidence
External trade plummets in March
Virus ends 21-year growth streak
Fitch Ratings lowers Philippines’ outlook to ‘stable’
CIT rate cut may be faster–DOF
BSP rate cut still needed this '20 to lift growth: economists
Economic recovery seen in S2 after GDP shrinks 0.2% amid Covid-19
'20 deficit to be around P1-T: DOF chief
PH trade drops in March due to Covid-19 restrictions: NEDA
PHL crisis spending seen low amid ample fiscal space
Inflation slows to 5-month low in April
Duterte institutionalizes ‘Balik Probinsya’ program

Energy
MORE Power told to upgrade connectors in Iloilo franchise
Rural utilities start meter reading for May bills
First Gen watches ‘very low’ LNG prices as PHL prepares to import
Most renewable energy plants continue to operate during lockdown

Financial Services
April taxes plummet amid crisis
BSP adopts relief measures in support of MSME sector
FIST law to boost investors’ confidence in PHL

Food & Agriculture
Rice supply to last until Q1 of next year, DA chief says
Agricultural output contracts in 1st quarter

Health & Life Sciences
Senate bills to boost Philippines healthcare system
Coronavirus gloom spawns physical, mental health troubles
Bong Go files health-related bills to boost country's healthcare system
PRRD to study DOST proposal to create a virology institute
Drilon wants PhilHealth revamp amid 'overpriced' test kits mess
CL stakeholders discuss tuberculosis treatment amid COVID pandemic
DTI: Philippines can now locally produce PPEs
DOST grants P4.7-M for sanitation cubicle fabrication
PhilHealth to review P8,150 COVID-19 package after overpricing allegations
Philippines invited to global clinical trial for COVID-19 vaccine by Chinese pharma
Health dep’t seeks P68B more to fight coronavirus pandemic
HCWs with virus now 2,000; DOH still hiring
Insurance firms seek regulatory relief
‘Undernourished children more prone to virus infection and possible death’
Palace says it's 'perfectly legal' to stop migration of Filipino health workers
UST hospital apologizes over statement on delayed PhilHealth reimbursement
‘Build, Build, Build’ priorities shifting in favor of health, digital
Gov’t readies airport rules under new normal as cases top 10,000
Makabayan bloc wants review of Universal Health Care Law
DOST gives specimen collection booths to Bicol hospitals
De Lima seeks grant of hazard pay for all disaster frontline workers
No order on PhilHealth premium payment for OEC release: POEA
‘I love my countrymen’: Duterte mulls stopping healthcare workers from moving overseas
Early estimates of the indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on maternal and child mortality in low-income and middle-income countries: a modelling study
We need a Financial Stability Board for health
Vaccine drive falters, DOH vows catch-up

ICT
Up to P5-M grant for researches, technologies under 'new normal'
Lawmaker bats for e-government system
Gov’t to use ICT tools to combat hunger amid pandemic —Nograles
DepEd urges donors to provide schoolkids with gadgets for distance learning
ICT department backs NEDA, says PHL needs to transition to digital economy
BPOs face uncertain post-pandemic future
PLDT studies 5G delay as pandemic disrupts supply chain
NTC seeks amendments to allow broadcast operations during franchise renewal | BusinessWorld
Philippines may soon tax Netflix, other digital platforms
Filipino mobile subscriptions set to witness ‘moderate growth’ in 2020
COVID-19 accelerates digital adoption in PH
Philippine home services company GoodWork raises $1.6m

Infrastructure
Infrastructure spending falls in Q1
Quality must prevail in post-pandemic infrastructure development

Legislation
Bitter mix: Liquor bans, ECQ bring sin taxes down by nearly 100 percent
Amendments to Anti-Money Laundering Act take backseat in House
DOF to Senate: Pass new Citira to aid business
Six local government units approve inclusion in ‘Balik Probinsya’ program
Citira, now CREATE, cuts CIT to 25%; means P259 billion in revenue loss till 2022
‘Drastic’ cut in corporate income tax rate to rescue MSMEs pushed | Elijah Felice Rosales
CITIRA faces ‘tweaks’ to maximize potential as stimulus measure

Travel & Tourism
NAIA revenue losses reach P1 billion
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
National Affairs

Next cash aid to benefit 20.3 million Households Philippine Star 19th May 2020
More than 20 million individuals are expected to benefit from the second tranche of the government’s aid programs for sectors sidelined by the coronavirus pandemic.The beneficiaries include the 12 million initially targeted under the social amelioration program (SAP), 4.9 million left out in the first tranche, and 3.4 million employee-recipients of the second wave of the small business wage subsidy program. Presidential spokesman Harry Roque yesterday said the total does not include households in general community quarantine areas that may receive subsidies

COVID-19

Palace: Three-month extension of Bayanihan law ‘ideal daily Inquirer 27th May 2020
A three-month extension of President Rodrigo Duterte’s special powers to address the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) health crisis under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act will be “ideal,” Malacañang said Wednesday.“I think a three-month period is ideal,” said Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque in an interview over ANC, when sought for comment on the law’s extension. Senator Panfilo Lacson earlier said Congress may have to amend the law or introduce a new measure extending the President’s special power.A bill seeking a three-month extension of Duterte’s special powers to address the COVID-19 pandemic has already been filed in the House of Representatives.

PH to start soon clinical trials on Avigan Philippine News Agency 6th May 2020
The country is set to start clinical trials of an antiviral medicine, Avigan, on persons infected with the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), said Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire. The Japanese government would be providing enough supply of Avigan for some 100 patients who will be chosen for the trial, she said.

2.7 million plus workers affected by pandemic BusinessMirror 26th May 2020
Over 2.7 million workers were affected by business disruptions caused by the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19), according to the latest data of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). Around 70 percent, or 1,927,308, of the said workers were affected by temporary closures (TC), while the remaining 30 percent, or 949,873, were compelled to practice flexible work arrangements (FWA). They were employed by 102,607 establishments nationwide. The National Capital Region (NCR) continues to have the most number of workers affected by government measures to contain the virus with 890,020. Coming in second place is Central Luzon with 295,458; followed by Calabarzon with 286,630; Central Visayas with 209,033; Davao  region with 205,380; Northern Mindanao with 181,523; and Zamboanga Peninsula with 121,786. The other Covid-affected workers came from Cagayan Valley (90,983); Mimaropa (88,474); Bicol region (79,564); Western Visayas (73,525); and Cordillera Administrative Region (68,210); Eastern Visayas (54,592); Caraga (46,779); Ilocos region (32,020); and Soccsksargen (27,663)

House panel set to OK 3 measures to respond to COVID-19 crisis cnn 26th May 2020
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 26) — The House of Representatives' Defeat COVID-19 Ad Hoc Committee is expected to approve on Tuesday morning three pending measures to aid the government's response to the COVID-19 crisis, including the ₱568-billion economic stimulus package intended for those affected by the pandemic. House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez said the special House panel will approve the Philippine Economic Stimulus Act (PESA), the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer (FIST) Act, and the Anti-Discrimination Bill, based on the committee reports of the Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries, the Economic Stimulus Response Package Subcommittee, and the Peace and Order Subcommittee. "Our efforts under the leadership of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano are relentless and persistent to create a safe, adaptive and resilient Philippines to fight COVID-19 by producing clear-cut and defining legislation," Romualdez said in a statement. The proposed ₱568-billion package under PESA serves as an employment protection stimulus for 30 million workers and to address the ₱1.2 trillion worth of economic losses brought by the months-long lockdown.

Garin backs more testing for returning workforce Business World 25th May 2020
EMPLOYEES returning to work should be tested for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to minimize possible transmission by asymptomatic persons, a former Health Secretary said. Iloilo Representative Janette L. Garin said a worker discovered to be infected has the potential to shut down an entire workplace, resulting in lost productivity and livelihoods. “The question on whether we need to test people going back to work, not all of them but yes we need to have a baseline of a specific (segment of the) population that can give us a better picture,” Ms. Garin said in a virtual briefing organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.

12-day backlog in Covid-19 tests still hounding DOH BusinessMirror 22nd May 2020
THE Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday admitted that the country was experiencing 12-day backlogs in the outcome of samples from Covid-19 tests. During the hearing of the House Committee on Health, Dr. Alethea de Guzman from DOH-Epidemiology Bureau said the results reported now were taken about 12 days ago. “We are experiencing challenges in ensuring that our data is real-time. We would like to achieve as close to real-time data as possible,” she said. “But this is dependent on a number of things. First, is the availability of trained disease surveillance officers not just in our local government units (LGUs) but also in our reporting units such as medical facilities and hospitals,” she added.

Covid-19 delays PHL-China talks on oil, gas deal BusinessMirror 18th May 2020
ENERGY Secretary Alfonso Cusi said the Philippines and China continue to discuss joint exploration for an oil and gas deal but nothing definite has been arranged yet. “Supposedly, the second meeting para matapos ang framework was last February pero nagka Covid-19 kaya hindi nagkaroon ng meeting with the committee [Supposedly, the second meeting to complete the framework was set last February, but the committee meeting was cancelled by Covid-19]. But we continue to discuss this with China, but only on director level, [there are no] official meetings. [There’s no operational framework [yet],” said Cusi during a virtual press conference. There was a meeting between the Philippine and Chinese officials in December last year, following the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between President Duterte and the Chinese president in November 2018.

Virus, ASF impact on global trade cuts 4-mo meat imports BusinessMirror 18th May 2020
THE country’s meat imports from January to April fell by 2 percent to 267,916.831 metric tons (MMT) due to disruptions in global trade caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and African Swine Fever (ASF). Total meat imports during the four-month period declined by nearly 53,000 MT from 273,208.717 MT in the same period last year, Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) data analyzed by the BusinessMirror showed. BAI data showed that the 97-percent increase in chicken meat imports was not enough to offset the -46 percent decline in pork imports during the reference period. Chicken meat imports, which accounted for 54 percent of total meat imports, rose by 46.5 percent to 144,780.558 MT from 98,827.846

Philippine economic backbone faces coronavirus axe Business World 17th May 2020
THE swarm of diners looking for cheap food on a busy street in Cubao — one of the oldest and busiest districts in Quezon City near the Philippine capital — has disappeared since Manila and nearby cities were locked down to contain a coronavirus pandemic. “I would be lucky to get a customer during lunchtime,” cured beef eatery owner Maria Teresita, 55, said. “I’m not worried about the rent because I own the place, but our sales may not be enough to pay for our utility bills,” she said in an interview. Filipino entrepreneurs sell everything from food and clothing to beauty products and health supplements and are considered to be the backbone of the Philippine economy. More than 99% of the roughly one million business establishments in the country in 2018 were micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), according to the Trade department. The smallest of them accounted for 88% of the total, or a little more than 887,000 establishments.”

PHL economy may lose up to P1.2T Business World 17th May 2020
THE Philippines could now suffer up to $24 billion (P1.2 trillion) in economic losses if the coronavirus crisis lasts for six months, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB). New data from the ADB showed potential economic losses in the Philippines could range from $12.9 billion up to $23.9 billion, depending on the length of time it takes for the country to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak and the government’s policy response. Without the government’s policy measures, the ADB estimated economic losses would reach between $15.701-$23.941 billion (P796 billion and P1.213 trillion) — representing 3.9%-6% of gross domestic product (GDP). The extent of the losses would depend on the length of the containment period — whether three or six months.

Deeper budget cuts expected Business World 17th May 2020
SOME departments may face deeper budget cuts, as the government looks for more funds for its efforts to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak and its economic fallout. Budget Undersecretary Tina Rose Marie L. Canda said some agencies may have their budgets further reduced, after they identified more savings from departments this month. “It’s possible because we will withdraw the offered savings once the submissions are complete,” Ms. Canda said. Data from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) showed allotments for line departments were adjusted in April in order to augment the budget of agencies responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

PHL firms lost P875 billion in revenue from ECQ BusinessMirror 13th May 2020
PHILIPPINE companies, including agriculture businesses, lost P875.5 billion in revenues due to the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), according to the survey conducted by the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) and the Department of Finance (DOF). Documents obtained by the BusinessMirror also revealed that micro, small and medium enterprises and large firms lost a total of P767 billion in revenues, while agriculture business lost P108.5 million in revenues. The top 10 industries most affected by the ECQ lost 74.3 percent of their sales as 135,438 firms were closed during the lockdown. Only 21,691 firms were open during this time.

Neda, DOF: NG needs P734 billion for stimulus after Covid damage BusinessMirror 13th May 2020
THE national government needs an additional P734-billion initial stimulus to boost the economy, according to estimates made by the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) and the Department of Finance (DOF). Documents obtained by the BusinessMirror showed that the amount accounts for 3.8 percent of the country’s GDP. Of this amount, 0.9 percent of GDP is composed of a fiscal stimulus. The remaining 2.9 percent comprises savings, off-budget, monetary policy, financial sector regulatory relief, and private sector contribution. “Reconciling the macro framework and survey results: P734 billion of initial stimulus is needed, but fiscal space is limited. Base case (-2 percent real GDP growth in 2020),” the document stated.

IAEECC mandates 10% energy saving goal to all govt agencies BusinessMirror 13th May 2020
The Inter-Agency Energy Efficiency and Conservation Committee (IAEECC) chaired by the Department of Energy (DOE) has directed all government agencies to implement energy conservation projects that will result in at least 10-percent cost savings. This move, it said, is meant to curb the spread of Covid-19. “In compliance with RA 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, the NBC [National Budget Circular] and the GEMP [Government Energy Management Program], all concerned government agencies are enjoined to implement energy conservation projects and measures to achieve at least 10-percent cost savings in the petroleum products, air, steam and electricity consumption that would result to the addition to government’s resources to contain the spread of Covid-19,” it said in an advisory posted at the DOE web site Tuesday.

Rules eased to boost MSME lending Business World 6th May 2020
THE Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is implementing measures that will allow banks to continue providing credit for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) that are struggling amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. In a statement on Tuesday, the BSP said the Monetary Board gave the go signal for “prudential measures to assist the (MSME) sector carry on with its business during the (COVID-19) crisis, as well as hasten recovery and sustainability of MSME operations in the post-crisis period.” “To enable stand-alone thrift banks, rural banks and cooperative banks to continue to support their MSME- and rural community-based clients, the BSP deferred the implementation of the revised risk-based capital framework applicable to these banks under Circular No. 1079 dated Mar. 9, 2020,” the BSP said.

Small firms seek support as lockdown continues Business World 6th May 2020
SOME small businesses are seeking more government assistance, such as utility subsidies and lower rental rates as they struggle to stay afloat amid the extended enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). Juan Miguel G. Eslava, owner of Cafe Juan Miguel, said in an online interview that his coffee shop in Imus, Cavite has lost 90% of its customers. None of his employees are able to go to work as public transportation is suspended and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases continue to rise in the area. Mr. Eslava and his girlfriend still run the café for loyal customers, sometimes making deliveries to nearby homes themselves and selling coffee beans directly to augment income. The Imus City government has also sponsored them to deliver food packs for frontliners.

Defense & Security

Fire-hit PH Navy ship to extend stay in India for 3 weeks for repair Inquirer.net 14th May 2020
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Navy patrol ship BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS-16) that caught fire recently will undergo repairs in India for almost a month before it sails back to the Philippines. The U.S. Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command will assist in repairing the BRP Ramon Alcaraz because it was acquired from the U.S.

The Philippine Defense Market - Attractiveness, Competitive Landscape and Forecasts to 2025 Research and Markets 14th May 2020
The Philippines’ defense expenditure recorded a CAGR of 8.21% over the historic-period and stood at US$3.8 billion in 2020. Territorial claims in the South China Sea and the increasing strength and assertiveness of the Chinese armed forces have spurred the Philippine government to enhance its military capabilities. In order to achieve this, the Philippine government has approved the Horizon II program under which the Philippines Department of National Defense is expected to spend US$5.6 billion during 2018-2022 on the procurement of military hardware and the modernization of armed forces of the country.

Economics

PCCI seeks 5-year NOLCO also for large corporations Business World 25th May 2020
BUSINESS GROUPS are seeking more stimulus programs directed at large companies, including expanded eligibility for the Net Operating Loss Carry Over (NOLCO), and backed immediate passage of legislation reducing the corporate income tax. They expressed support in statements Monday for the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE), the current form of the CITIRA bill, which cuts the corporate income tax (CIT) to 25% from 30% by July. The earlier proposal, CITIRA, would cut CIT to 20% gradually over a decade. The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said that the extension of NOLCO to five years from three will help companies reduce their tax payments for a longer period. The benefit, under the proposal, applies only to “non-large taxpayers,” it noted.

Costlier food cuts deep into wallets of the poor in April BusinessMirror 22nd May 2020
MORE expensive food items caused the poorest Filipinos to see higher inflation in April, the highest in 10 months, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). April was right in the middle of the Covid-induced lockdowns that paralyzed small businesses and displaced millions of daily wage and informal workers/ In its latest inflation report for the Bottom 30 percent of the population, inflation was at 2.9 percent in April 2020, with inflation for the first four months of the year averaging 2.5 percent. Inflation experienced by the poorest Filipinos last month was the highest since June 2019 when inflation was at 3.1 percent. Inflation in April was higher than the 2.4 percent recorded in March 2020 but slower than the 3.1 percent posted in April 2019.

Inflation impact on poor picks up in April Business World 22nd May 2020
INFLATION, as experienced by low-income families, accelerated in April as lockdown measures were implemented to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Philippine Statistics Authority reported on Thursday. The inflation rate for the country’s bottom 30% income households figured in at 2.9% in April. This was faster than 2.4% in March, but slower compared to 3.1% in April 2019. The latest reading brought the year-to-date pace for this income segment to 2.5%, still lower than the four-percent average in 2019’s comparable four months. That compared to a 2.2% headline inflation experienced by the average household in April, which was slower than the 2.5% annual rate in March, and three percent in April 2019. The inflation rate for the bottom 30% takes into account the spending patterns of this income segment. Thus, its consumer price index differs from that of the average household with the former assigning heavier weights on necessities.

Economic team proposes P131-B in relief measures, P711-B to revive economy Business World 8th May 2020
The government’s economic managers proposed to Congress P131 billion in new programs to help the vulnerable members of the population deal with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) emergency and an economic recovery package of P711 billion. Some P50 billion from the relief component will supplement the capital of state-owned Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP). P30 billion from the relief component will go to the government’s emergency subsidy program while P21 billion more will be directed to the wage subsidy program. The cluster also proposed P20 billion for the government’s credit guarantee program to help affected businesses gain access to loans for working capital, as well as P10 billion to buy 3.5 million more test kits.

Forced closure of ABS-CBN may hurt investor confidence Business World 8th May 2020
The Makati Business Club (MBC), Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference for Human Development, Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), and Shareholders’ Association of the Philippines, Inc. issued a joint statement expressing concern over the forced shutdown of ABS-CBN’s television and radio stations, saying it is a blow to press freedom, which is a pillar of democratic societies. MBC and MAP both called on Congress to act on the pending bills seeking to renew the network’s franchise, which expired on May 4.

External trade plummets in March Business World 8th May 2020
The country's international trade performance fell significantly in March as the restrictions imposed to arrest the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak in the middle of the month led to exports and imports shrinking to multi-year lows, the government reported. Preliminary trade data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed merchandise exports in March contracting by 24.9% to $4.53 billion compared to a 2.8% growth in February and a 0.1% uptick recorded in March 2019. Likewise, merchandise imports fell 26.2% to $6.91 billion in March, deteriorating from an 11.6% decline in February and a 12% growth observed in the same month last year.

Virus ends 21-year growth streak Business World 8th May 2020
THE Philippine economy unexpectedly shrank in the first quarter, as strict lockdown measures aimed at containing the coronavirus outbreak brought economic activity to a near standstill, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on Thursday. Using the new base year of 2018, gross domestic product (GDP) contracted 0.2% in January to March, ending 84 quarters or 21 years of uninterrupted growth. The last time GDP fell into negative territory was in the fourth quarter of 1998, when the economy contracted by 3% amid the Asian financial crisis.

Fitch Ratings lowers Philippines’ outlook to ‘stable’ Business World 8th May 2020
FITCH RATINGS on Thursday evening downgraded its outlook for the Philippines to “stable,” less than three months since it gave a “positive” outlook, as the economy faces a recession amid the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, the global debt watcher affirmed the country’s credit rating at “BBB” — a notch above the minimum investment grade which it gave in December 2017. “The revision of the outlook reflects deterioration in the Philippines’ near-term macroeconomic and fiscal outlook as a result of the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic and domestic lockdown to contain the spread of the virus,” it said in a note sent to reporters on Thursday. A stable outlook indicates that the country’s rating is likely to be maintained rather than lowered or upgraded in the medium- and long-term or over the next 18-24 months.

CIT rate cut may be faster–DOF BusinessMirror 7th May 2020
THE Department of Finance (DOF) said on Wednesday it is now open to slashing the corporate income tax (CIT) rate at a much faster pace compared with what it was originally pushing for under the Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act (Citira). The DOF is now looking to reduce the 30-percent current CIT rate—which has been the highest in Southeast Asia—to 25 percent on the first year of implementation due to the Covid-19 impact. Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III for the first time categorically expressed openness to quickening the pace of reduction in the CIT rate. Former Finance Undersecretary and now Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua told the BusinessMirror he will “have to leave it to DOF to compute the rate we can afford while being responsive to the businesses affected.”

BSP rate cut still needed this '20 to lift growth: economists Philippine News Agency 7th May 2020
Another cut in Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) key rates is expected after the contraction in domestic growth in the first quarter of 2020 but timing depends on factors like inflation and impact of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19). Since the start of the year, BSP’s policy-making Monetary Board (MB) slashed the central bank’s key policy rates by a total of 125 basis points to help buoy the domestic economy from the impact of trade tensions overseas and the global pandemic. The Board also authorized BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno to cut banks’ reserve requirement ratio (RRR) by 400 basis points and so far, half of this has been implemented.

Economic recovery seen in S2 after GDP shrinks 0.2% amid Covid-19 Philippine News Agency 7th May 2020
The country’s chief economist remains optimistic about the recovery of the Philippine economy in the second half of 2020 after declining by 0.2 percent in January to March, its first contraction in two decades, mainly due to the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic. Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said the country faced unexpected and “significant socio-economic risks and shocks” during the first quarter. Chua, however, expressed hope that the country could start reversing the economic trajectory by June as it ramps up its Covid-19 testing capacity. Chua said he was also banking on the continued implementation of the “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program and strategies to stimulate domestic demand and boost this year’s economic performance.

'20 deficit to be around P1-T: DOF chief Philippine News Agency 6th May 2020
Government expenditures for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) is expected to increase the budget deficit to around PHP1 trillion this 2020. This was disclosed by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III but assured the public that the government was in a good financial position even before the pandemic hit. The inter-agency Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) has set a 3.2-percent budget deficit cap for this year amounting to PHP677.6 billion. Dominguez said the government’s four-pillar Covid-19 response is being funded by the tax collections, the dividends from government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), and loans, among others.

PH trade drops in March due to Covid-19 restrictions: NEDA Philippine News Agency 6th May 2020
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported Wednesday that the country’s total merchandise trade dropped to USD11.44 billion — its lowest level in two years. This trade performance is 25.7 percent lower than the US$15.40 billion recorded in the same month in the previous year. Both exports and imports registered declines of 24.9 percent and 26.2 percent, respectively. “Merchandise trade may recover in 2021, but this will depend on how fast we can contain the spread of Covid-19 and mitigate its economic impact through government policies to support affected industries and workers,” acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said in a statement.

PHL crisis spending seen low amid ample fiscal space Business World 6th May 2020
THE Philippines may need to supplement its initial crisis spending plans, which are currently the equivalent to as much as 6% of gross domestic product (GDP), but the government retains adequate fiscal space to escalate its stimulus efforts if needed, analysts said. Alex Holmes, an emerging-markets economist with Capital Economics, said the Philippines has “plenty of space providing more fiscal support” in its efforts to contain the pandemic. He estimates the country’s debt stock to increase 10 percentage points to still-manageable levels. Mr. Holmes said the economy will need “more fiscal support” to cushion the fallout from the pandemic, with GDP expected to contract 4% this year.

Inflation slows to 5-month low in April Business World 6th May 2020
INFLATION slowed to a five-month low in April, as the decline in transport and the deceleration in other nonfood commodities offset the faster price adjustments in the heavily weighted food and non-alcoholic beverages, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed. April inflation eased to 2.2%, slower than 2.5% annual rate in March, and three percent in April 2019. This was also the lowest since November 2019’s 1.3%. The April print was within the 1.9%-2.7% forecast range given by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Department of Economic Research for the month. A BusinessWorld poll of 13 economists yielded a 2.1% median estimate for last month’s inflation.

Duterte institutionalizes ‘Balik Probinsya’ program Philippine News Agency 6th May 2020
President Rodrigo Duterte has institutionalized the “Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa” (BP2) program that aims to decongest Metro Manila. He Executive Order No. 114 which aims “to ensure balanced regional development and equitable distribution of wealth, resources and opportunities through policies and programs that boost countryside development and inclusive growth, provide adequate social services, and promote full employment, industrialization and an improved quality of life in rural areas.” The EO creates a BP2 Council to ensure a whole-of-government action of the implementation of the BP2 program. The council will be tasked to formulate within 30 days the guidelines necessary to implement this order, including the BP program framework and at the same time provide overall direction in the implementation of the BP program.

Energy

MORE Power told to upgrade connectors in Iloilo franchise BusinessMirror 26th May 2020
Meralco Industrial Engineering Services Corp. (MIESCOR), which has conducted a technical study of Iloilo City’s electric distribution system, has advised More Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power) to upgrade 9,000 hot spot connectors to prevent system-wide damage to the facility. MORE Power President and Chief Operating Officer Ruel Castro said this was part of the study undertaken by MIESCOR. He said immediate preventive maintenance work must be carried out. MIESCOR’s findings also showed that four of the five power substations were found to carry over 90 percent load, a dangerous level that could cause damage to the distribution lines and safety switches as the safe level allowed is between 70 percent and 80 percent load capacity.

Rural utilities start meter reading for May bills Business World 25th May 2020
POWER UTILITIES in the countryside have returned to using actual meter readings for computing their customers’ bills for May, their industry association said. The Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (Philreca) said Monday that all 121 rural electric cooperatives (EC) have complied with the government’s advisories, including those of the Department of Energy and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), on billing and suspension of meter reading during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). In a report to the Joint Congressional Energy Committee hearing Friday, the association said 64 rural utilities based their May bills on actual meter readings as of May 19.

First Gen watches ‘very low’ LNG prices as PHL prepares to import Business World 7th May 2020
THE current low prices of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the world market are favorable for the Philippines as a future buyer of the imported fuel, an official of Lopez-led First Gen Corp. said. “International LNG and oil prices are now at very low levels which bodes well for the Philippines as a potential new importer of LNG which can initially complement, and eventually replace, natural gas from the Malampaya field,” First Gen Executive Vice President Jonathan C. Russell told BusinessWorld. Economic shutdowns caused by the global coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic have lowered demand for oil and gas, causing an oversupply, along with a steep decline in prices.

Most renewable energy plants continue to operate during lockdown Business World 6th May 2020
Renewable energy power plants are still running with no impact from the disruptions caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) emergency, the industry’s regulator said. As of March 31, there are 127 eligible renewable power plants with a total capacity of 2,221.15 megawatts which are potential sources of clean power resources. Eligible generators include facilities using biomass, waste-to-energy, wind energy, solar energy, run-of-river hydroelectric power systems, impounding hydroelectric power systems, ocean energy, geothermal energy, hybrid systems as defined by the Renewable Energy Act, and other renewable energy technologies that may be later identified by the DoE.

Financial Services

April taxes plummet amid crisis Business World 20th May 2020
GOVERNMENT tax collection continued to plunge in April, largely because of the extension of tax payment deadlines amid lockdown measures, the Department of Finance (DoF) said on Tuesday. However, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said there are no plans for new taxes to fund the fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The DoF, citing preliminary data, said combined collections of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and Bureau of Customs (BoC) dropped to P105.75 billion last month, 63% lower than a year earlier and 19% short of the P131-billion target for the month.The bulk or P71.78 billion came from BIR collections, which declined by 70% from P237.93 billion a year ago.BoC generated P33.97 billion in revenues in April, 34.27% lower than in the same period last year and 40% short of the P56.54-billion target for the month For the first four months of 2020, total collections stood at P706.85 billion, 21.46% smaller than a year ago and 3.83% short of the P735.03-billion target.

BSP adopts relief measures in support of MSME sector Philippine News Agency 5th May 2020
The Monetary Board has approved prudential measures to assist the micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) sector carry on with its business during the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) crisis, as well as hasten recovery and sustainability of their operations in the post-crisis period.  The first set of measures by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) are amendments to the regulatory capital treatment of exposures to MSMEs, which free up capital and enable supervised financial institutions to extend more credit to them.  These include the temporary reduction in the credit risk weights of loans granted to MSMEs that are current in status, and assignment of a lower risk weight for MSME exposures that are covered by guarantees.

FIST law to boost investors’ confidence in PHL BusinessMirror 22nd May 2020
THE pending law on the strategic transfer of soured assets from banks to other asset management companies will eventually protect the country’s viability to become a bright investment destination in the post-coronavirus disease (Covid-19) world, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) chief said on Thursday. Talking to reporters via an online conference, BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno expressed support for the program—currently dubbed the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer (FIST) law—and said it will enable the local financial system to mobilize savings and investments for the country’s recovery post-pandemic. Due to the global health crisis and the economic disruption it has caused, banks are bracing for the surge of nonperforming loans (NPLs), or more popularly known as “bad” or “soured” loans. These are loans that remain unpaid for more than 90 days after their due date.

Food & Agriculture

Rice supply to last until Q1 of next year, DA chief says BusinessMirror 26th May 2020
The country will be ending the year with a 10-year high rice inventory of 3.27 million metric tons (MMT), which is enough to cover the country’s staple requirement for the first quarter of 2021 based on the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) projections. “We would like to inform the public that based on our estimates, the country will enjoy an ending rice inventory of 3.27 million metric tons by December 31 this year,” Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said in a news statement issued on Monday. “That means we will have rice to feed the entire country for 94 more days, or three months, up to March 2021,” Dar added. Based on figures of the Philippine Statistics Authority, this could be highest carry-over stocks inventory since 2011, when it reached a record 3.42 MMT. The DA said the country’s rice supply this year, which is comprised of carry-over stocks, local production and imports, would reach nearly 18 MMT, which is about 18 percent higher than the total demand of 14.67 MMT.

Agricultural output contracts in 1st quarter Business World 8th May 2020
The country’s agricultural output contracted in the first quarter, as production of crops and fisheries dropped, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on Wednesday. The PSA said that the value of production of the farm sector — which contributes about a 10th to GDP and a fourth of jobs in the country — fell 1.2% annually compared to the 0.4% growth a year ago and -0.1% in the last three months of 2019. The first-quarter figure was lower than the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) full-year target of around 2% growth. Rice crops output, which accounted for 54.9% of the sector’s total production, slid 2.1% in the first quarter. This was led by paddy rice harvest and corn which contracted by 3.6% and 3.4%, respectively.

Health & Life Sciences

Senate bills to boost Philippines healthcare system philstar.com 26th May 2020
Sen. Christopher Go is pushing for more health-related bills to boost the healthcare system as the country moves to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19. Go filed Senate Bills 1226 or the DOH Hospital Bed Capacity and Service Capability Rationalization Act, SB 1451 or the Medical Reserve Corps Act of 2020, SB 1259 or the Mandatory Quarantine Facilities Act of 2020 and SB 1528, which seeks to amend Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.

Coronavirus gloom spawns physical, mental health troubles Business World 25th May 2020
Linda L. Varona, head of the Lifestyle Medicine Department of the Adventist Medical Center Manila, said the quarantine has affected people’s lifestyles. “It has also changed our food habits. Some are forced to save money and would now buy noodles instead of fruits,” she said by telephone. Health frontliners also rely on food delivered or donated to them. But people should stop blaming the lockdown for their bad food choices, said Ms. Varona, a former president of the Philippine Society of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Inc.

Bong Go files health-related bills to boost country's healthcare system Philippines Information Agency 25th May 2020
- The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has exposed gaps in the Philippine healthcare system. As the country continues to battle the virus, Senator and Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go is pushing for legislative measures which seek to further strengthen and enhance the country's healthcare system. “Bilang Chair ng Senate Committee on Health, sisiguraduhin natin na magiging mas maayos ang ating healthcare system habang sinusubukan nating lampasan ang krisis na dulot ng COVID-19. Let us all learn from this experience and better prepare ourselves for any health emergency that may come,” Go said.

PRRD to study DOST proposal to create a virology institute Philippines Information Agency 24th May 2020
President Rodrigo Duterte will study the proposal of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to reactivate the pharmaceutical development unit at DOST-ITDI (Industrial Technology Development Institute) and establish a virology institute in the country, Malacañang said Sunday. In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) approved the DOST proposal for possible legislation.

Drilon wants PhilHealth revamp amid 'overpriced' test kits mess GMA News Online 24th May 2020
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Sunday called for a reorganization of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) after he flagged the agency over its supposedly overpriced COVID-19 testing packages. In a Dobol B sa News TV interview, Drilon said there may have been groups within PhilHealth that bloated the prices of test kits. Earlier, the senator pointed out that PhilHealth will shoulder the cost for P8,150 per test, but this is double the price in comparison with the ones acquired by the private sector, including the Philippine Red Cross, which can do the same test for only P3,500.

CL stakeholders discuss tuberculosis treatment amid COVID pandemic Philippines Information Agency 21st May 2020
About 312 government and private sector stakeholders participated Thursday in a webinar focused on ensuring continuous tuberculosis (TB) services amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Entitled “Business-not-as-usual”, it was organized by the TB Platforms Project of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in partnership with Department of Health (DOH) Region 3.

DTI: Philippines can now locally produce PPEs GMA News Online 21st May 2020
The Philippines is now able to locally produce personal protective equipment (PPEs) for frontliners amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Department of Trade and Industry said Thursday. During a hearing of the Committee of the Whole, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said that 10 companies in the Philippines have agreed to produce protective gear.

DOST grants P4.7-M for sanitation cubicle fabrication Philippines Information Agency 20th May 2020
The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) provided more than PHP4.7 million grant for the design and fabrication of sanitation cubicles meant to be distributed to various hospitals. The amount will cover the production of five prototypes to be used in the Philippine General Hospital, said DOST-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development executive director Jaime Montoya in an email to the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Wednesday.

PhilHealth to review P8,150 COVID-19 package after overpricing allegations GMA News Online 20th May 2020
The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) on Wednesday said it is reviewing its coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) package in response to allegations of overpricing. During the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon asked why test kits were priced at P2,700 for the P8,150 package. According to PhilHealth chief Ricardo Morales, the costs were based on data collected early in the pandemic.

Philippines invited to global clinical trial for COVID-19 vaccine by Chinese pharma GMA News Online 20th May 2020
The Philippines has received an invitation from China to participate in a global clinical trial for a possible vaccine for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Wednesday. Duque said the offer was made by the Sinopharm Group, the biggest pharmaceutical company in China.

Health dep’t seeks P68B more to fight coronavirus pandemic Business World 19th May 2020
HEALTH authorities are seeking P67.62 billion in additional budget in the battle against a novel coronavirus pandemic, as infections neared 13,000. The budget department has approved P45.72 of the total but the agency needs more, Health Undersecretary Gerardo V. Bayugo told congressmen at an online hearing on Tuesday. He said DoH had realigned P2.28 billion from its budget for the control of other infectious diseases to the purchase of test kits and personal protective equipment, staff hiring and to augment its quick response fund against the coronavirus.

HCWs with virus now 2,000; DOH still hiring BusinessMirror 13th May 2020
INFECTED health-care workers (HCWs) in the country hit the 2,000-mark on Tuesday, but the Department of Health (DOH) continued to call on nurses to join the fight against Covid-19 as the government considers easing the lockdown in the coming days. As of 4 p.m. of May 11, a total of 2,067 HCWs were confirmed cases, while 643 have already recovered, with 35 deaths.

Insurance firms seek regulatory relief Business World 11th May 2020
INSURANCE COMPANIES are asking the Insurance Commission (IC) to “ease up” on some regulatory requirements to temper the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the industry. Philippine Life Insurance Association, Inc. (PLIA) President Benedicto C. Sison has said life insurers expect their assets to suffer “some drag” due to local equity sell-offs, although equities only make up a small portion of their total assets. Sales of life insurance products also took a hit in the first month of the lockdown as the mobility of their financial advisors were restricted.

‘Undernourished children more prone to virus infection and possible death’ BusinessMirror 7th May 2020
Save the Children Philippines is calling on local health centers to resume maternal and child health services as the number of babies and young children contracting the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) has already reached 424 with nine deaths. “No child should die from preventable causes,” said Atty. Alberto Muyot, chief executive officer of Save the Children Philippines. “Children who die from Covid-19 may have been suffering from acute malnutrition, or wasting, caused by hunger with complications such as pneumonia and dehydration due to diarrhea,” said Muyot.

Palace says it's 'perfectly legal' to stop migration of Filipino health workers philstar.com 6th May 2020
Stopping the migration of health workers to protect them from the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 is "perfectly legal," Malacañang said Wednesday. Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said preventing the departure of health workers to shield them from the virus is a valid exercise of police power. "Perfectly legal. In fact, that's pursuant to the general welfare clause. It is an exercise of police power because the primary basis for the president's concern is that these people are going to the most dangerous places as far as COVID-19 is concerned," Roque told ABS-CBN News Channel.

UST hospital apologizes over statement on delayed PhilHealth reimbursement Rappler 6th May 2020
The University of Santo Tomas Hospital apologized to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) over a statement made on Sunday, May 3, saying the state insurer owed the hospital P180 million in expenses for patients in 2019. In a letter obtained by Rappler on Tuesday night, May 5, USTH director Dr Marcellus Francis Ramirez said the issue was “blown out of proportion.” “There was no intention on our part to put your corporation on the spot. The hospital statement was a reply to repeated questions of the Varsitarian regarding the manpower reduction strategies which involved certain employees and it was an explanation to emphasize the financial challenges the institution is undergoing in order to air the side of the hospital on the issue,” Ramirez said.

‘Build, Build, Build’ priorities shifting in favor of health, digital Business World 6th May 2020
THE government will assign higher priority to health and digital infrastructure projects in its flagship “Build, Build, Build” program, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said. NEDA Acting Director-General Karl Kendrick T. Chua said the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) is currently reviewing the infrastructure program to “reprioritize” such projects. “These are now being reviewed by the DBCC. What we are thinking right now is we have to reprioritize our infrastructure program. We have to give more space to health infrastructure, digital infrastructure, and those are important in the new normal,” Mr. Chua said in an ABS-CBN News TV interview Monday. Separately, he told BusinessWorld that the government may also consider funding more infrastructure projects via private-public partnerships (PPPs).

Gov’t readies airport rules under new normal as cases top 10,000 Business World 6th May 2020
THE government on Wednesday announced new rules for the so-called new normal at the country’s international and domestic airports, as the coronavirus infections topped 10,000. In a statement, the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said it would enforce physical distancing, temperature and contactless security checks as authorities prepare for the reopening of commercial flights. The agency said social distancing measures would be in place at all queuing points, while there would be temperature checks at security and vehicle checkpoints at the four terminals of the capital’s international airport.

Makabayan bloc wants review of Universal Health Care Law GMA News Online 6th May 2020
Members of the progressive Makabayan bloc have filed a resolution seeking to review the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law in light of the circular from the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) increasing the premium contributions of overseas Filipino workers (OFW). The lawmakers electronically filed on Tuesday House Resolution 827, directing the House Committee on Health to conduct an urgent review on the UHC Law, as well as to suspend the implementation of provisions in question in the said act.

DOST gives specimen collection booths to Bicol hospitals Philippines Information Agency 5th May 2020
The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) regional office here has distributed specimen collection booths (SCBs) to various hospitals in Bicol region. In an interview on Tuesday with the Philippine News Agency (PNA), Engr. Marie Grace Molina, regional project coordinator on SCB deployment, said the SCBs were developed by a private company and funded by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD). “Under the project 'A Covid-19 initiative: Development of Swab Testing Stations and Conduct of Testing and Data Gathering in Selected Areas', the design is to ensure the safety of the medical personnel and the patient,” she said.

De Lima seeks grant of hazard pay for all disaster frontline workers BusinessMirror 5th May 2020
Amid the virus pandemic, Sen. Leila M. de Lima is urging the government to grant basic hazard allowances for essential workers for both public and private sectors, as well as an additional hazard pay for all public health workers. On April 27, de Lima filed Senate Bill (SB) 1439 to amend Section 13 of Republic Act (RA) 10121, otherwise known as the Philippine Disaster Risk and Management Act of 2010, to extend the hazard pay grant to all essential workers in both public and private sectors that will be tasked to deliver or augment delivery of services during state of emergencies.

No order on PhilHealth premium payment for OEC release: POEA Philippines Information Agency 5th May 2020
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) on Tuesday said it did not issue an order requiring overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to pay Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) premium first before they can get copies of their overseas employment certificates (OECs). “The POEA hereby informs the public that since the passage of Republic Act 11223, otherwise known as the Philippine Universal Health Care Act, the POEA Governing Board, a tripartite policymaking body with DOLE Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III as its Chairperson, has not passed a resolution that authorizes the POEA to require OFWs to pay Philhealth premium in their application for the issuance of OECS,” POEA chief Bernard Olalia said in an advisory. Olalia guaranteed that their action is consistent with the order of the government.

‘I love my countrymen’: Duterte mulls stopping healthcare workers from moving overseas Coconuts 5th May 2020
President Rodrigo Duterte is set to consult with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to know if there’s a legal basis in his plan to stop healthcare workers from leaving the Philippines, the chief executive said in a publicly broadcast speech last night. “What is painful for me is that now when we need desperately the help of the manpower…in a jiffy they are given the necessary travel documents and its to our disadvantage, really,” Duterte said in English and Filipino. Duterte said he wants to stop health workers from immigrating to other countries to protect them from COVID-19.

Early estimates of the indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on maternal and child mortality in low-income and middle-income countries: a modelling study The Lancet Global Health 14th May 2020
While the COVID-19 pandemic will increase mortality due to the virus, it is also likely to increase mortality indirectly. In this study, we estimate the additional maternal and under-5 child deaths resulting from the potential disruption of health systems and decreased access to food. Our least severe scenario (coverage reductions of 9·8–18·5% and wasting increase of 10%) over 6 months would result in 253 500 additional child deaths and 12 200 additional maternal deaths. Our most severe scenario (coverage reductions of 39·3–51·9% and wasting increase of 50%) over 6 months would result in 1 157 000 additional child deaths and 56 700 additional maternal deaths.

We need a Financial Stability Board for health Financial Times 14th May 2020
We have invested in building resilience in our financial system, but not in our global health system. That must change. The World Health Organization’s handling of the pandemic has been heavily criticised. The solution is not to cut the WHO — it’s to reinforce it. What the world needs is a second international organisation to work alongside the WHO with a singular focus on preparedness, response and management of threats to global health. There is already a successful model. As we confront Covid-19, we are relearning many of the lessons that emerged from the bitter experience of the 2008 financial crisis. Among them: we are more interdependent than ever. The consequences of underinvesting in resilience can be catastrophic. And everything moves faster than we imagined.

Vaccine drive falters, DOH vows catch-up BusinessMirror 11th May 2020
LESS than 10 percent of targeted children were immunized against the usual top killer diseases, as some areas in the country are placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or general community quarantine (GCQ), according to an official of the Department of Health (DOH). Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, however, gave assurances that the DOH is making sure that no children will miss out on vaccinations amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

ICT

Up to P5-M grant for researches, technologies under 'new normal' Philippines Information Agency 25th May 2020
Up to PHP5-million grant is at stake for researches and technologies that would help the economy adapt to the "new normal" after the Covid-19 pandemic, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) announced Monday. Researchers from the academe, research, and development (R&D) institutions, as well as Filipino private companies, are invited to send proposals to the DOST under the agency's CRADLE (Collaborative Research and Development to Leverage Philippine Economy) Challenge. In a virtual presser, DOST Undersecretary Rowena Cristina Guevara said under the CRADLE Challenge, researchers would collaborate and formulate scientific and technical solutions that would shape the "new normal" for businesses.

Lawmaker bats for e-government system philstar.com 25th May 2020
The government, from the national down to local levels, has to keep up or at least cope with the long-time digitization systems of private businesses that have now been highlighted by the global public health emergency crisis, according to a bill filed by Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte of Camarines Sur. House Bill 1248 aims to develop, promote and interlink electronic government services and processes in all state agencies and corporations.

Gov’t to use ICT tools to combat hunger amid pandemic —Nograles GMA News Online 24th May 2020
The government will use information and communications technology (ICT) tools in efforts to combat hunger after a survey found that some 4.2 million Filipinos experienced involuntary hunger amid the coronavirus pandemic, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said Sunday. Nograles said the Supply Chain Analytics (SCAN) dashboard and other similar tools being used by the government against COVID-19 may also be used by bodies such as the Inter-Agency Task Force on Zero Hunger.

DepEd urges donors to provide schoolkids with gadgets for distance learning GMA News Online 21st May 2020
Instead of school supplies, the Department of Education (DepEd) on Thursday encouraged donors to provide gadgets that students can use for distance learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Citing a survey conducted by the DepEd, the Cabinet official said that many teachers in the country have their own laptops and desktops. Out of the poll's 788,000 teacher respondents, 687,000 said they have those gadgets, Briones said.

ICT department backs NEDA, says PHL needs to transition to digital economy Eagle News 21st May 2020
The Department of Information and Communications Technology backed the National Economic Development Authority’s statement there was a need to transition into a “digital economy” to better adapt to the “new normal.” “We are optimistic that the transition of the Philippines to a digital economy will make the country’s economy more resilient to external factors, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.” the department secretary Gregorio Honasan said. According to Honasan, under the banner of a Digital Philippines, the department was “employing a holistic approach towards digitalization, focusing on connectivity, cybersecurity and digital literacy. ”

BPOs face uncertain post-pandemic future Business World 8th May 2020
THE business process outsourcing (BPO) industry is looking at an uncertain future where large global corporations either re-shore jobs or diversify their outsourcing destinations in response to the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic on business. In the Philippines, the outsourcing industry is expected to lose clients to other countries with stronger internet infrastructure that can support work-from-home (WFH) programs. “Different countries have handled the pandemic very differently, and some have suffered a lot more than others. So I think that will prompt some of the large companies to take a more balanced approach to their location strategy and perhaps not put all their eggs in one basket,” Matchboard Managing Director Sharon Melamed said in a Zoom interview. Matchboard is an Australia-based outsourcing matching service.

PLDT studies 5G delay as pandemic disrupts supply chain Business World 8th May 2020
The coronavirus pandemic is pushing PLDT Inc. to delay the launching of its fifth-generation (5G) network services, Chief Revenue Officer Alfredo S. Panlilio of the Pangilinan-led telecommunications company said. On Thursday, the telecommunications company said the capital spending for this year would probably be cut by 24% to P63 billion from the planned P83 billion as movement and travel restrictions under the government-imposed enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) hamper its network rollout activities. Technology firm Cisco Systems, Inc. (Cisco) earlier said the rollout of 5G network services in the Philippines could increase the annual revenues of telecommunications companies by as much as $650 million beginning 2025. Cisco said 5G penetration in countries in Southeast Asia is expected to reach 25% to 40% by 2025.

NTC seeks amendments to allow broadcast operations during franchise renewal | BusinessWorld Business World 7th May 2020
National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) Deputy Commissioner Edgardo V. Cabarios said the lesson the Commission learned from dealing with the franchise issue of ABS-CBN Corp. is that the Act No. 3846 or the Radio Control Law that it cited in its cease-and-desist order against the broadcaster needs to be updated to allow operations pending the franchise renewal process. The Radio Control Law empowers the NTC to control the allocation of spectrum. Mr. Cabarios said the provision should be updated to allow a broadcasting company to continue operations while awaiting the renewal of its franchise.

Philippines may soon tax Netflix, other digital platforms philstar.com 20th May 2020
The government of the Philippines is determining how to tax apps and social media networks, including the popular streaming service Netflix, which have not been on the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR)’s list of taxpayers. Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, who chairs the House of Representatives’ ways and means committee, said his House Bill 6765, the digital economy taxation bill, aims to raise about P29.1 billion in new revenues to help the country cope with the pandemic. The former chief of the National Economic and Development Authority said the measure would “capture the value created by the digital economy better in the country’s tax system, plugging loopholes due to ambiguities in what kind of taxes digital services are liable to.” HB 6765 is estimated to yield as much as P29.1 billion annually in incremental revenues. Salceda noted that internet marketplaces, like Lazada and Shopee, are growing very rapidly due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, but there may be issues of tax compliance among its partners, too. As the Philippines’ shift toward digitalization continues to accelerate due to the imposition of community quarantine measures brought about by COVID-19, Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. is eyeing the rapid growth of the digital economy as an opportunity for the government to increase its income to be used for providing services for all Filipinos affected by the pandemic. Revilla filed Resolution 410 urging the Senate’s ways and means committee and the appropriate committees to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the possibility of collecting taxes from multinational online streaming services and the digital economy in general.

Filipino mobile subscriptions set to witness ‘moderate growth’ in 2020 Channel Asia 20th May 2020
The highly saturated mobile telecom market in the Philippines is forecast to witness moderate growth in the percentage of mobile subscriptions in 2020 due to the Covid-19 outbreak, according to new GlobalData findings. The percentage of mobile subscriptions growth will be less in 2020 as almost half of the country’s population will be staying indoors and also the temporary shutdown of businesses and travel restrictions will result in fewer SIM sales. Moreover, Covid-19 has had a massive impact on the economy, negatively affecting income and new phone sales. But there is opportunity for telecommunications providers to generate revenue through mobile data and fixed broadband plans during the lockdown period. For example, PLDT witnessed an increase in their fixed lines data traffic of 15 per cent to 20 per cent in the first week of community quarantine. The rise in mobile data usage along with an increase in voice calls and text messages were also witnessed by the operator. Telco operators in the Philippines are taking effective steps to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic and provide essential support to their customers both on new offers and services and also on network coverage. PLDT and Globe have taken certain steps to cater to the increasing internet and data demand during the 30-day lockdown period. For its fibre broadband subscribers, PLDT is offering free ‘speed boost’, providing a minimum Internet connection speeds of 25 Mbps. PLDT's mobile arm, Smart, is also offering free access to official websites such as the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, and the Philippine Information Agency. Moreover, to equip medical front-liners with reliable data connectivity, Smart is providing free, fast, and 24/7 Smart Wi-Fi to newly-activated Covid-19 facilities. We expect the overall telecom service revenue to witness a slight decline in 2020 over 2019 owing to the impact of Covid-19 on businesses and a weaker economic outlook. However, the revenue will return to growth in 2021, driven by rising demand in consumer fixed and mobile broadband services.

COVID-19 accelerates digital adoption in PH Inquirer.net 20th May 2020
With the COVID-19 pandemic, people all over the world sought to bring a semblance of normalcy in their lives. Filipinos are no different and have looked towards technology to bridge the gap between how things were versus what they are now. The ECQ and travel restrictions thrust the internet and digital applications into the forefront of the average Filipino. We have seen an accelerated adoption of critical applications that would allow people to enjoy things that can be easily taken for granted – a favorite dish, a hobby, a wanted toy, or just the simple joy of being connected to a friend. In the recent Digital 2020 April Statshot report of Hootsuite and We Are Social, the Philippines showed increased reliance on the internet as a means to cope and to safely shop for essentials. 64% of Filipino internet users reported spending more time on social media, while 23% of users shared that they are spending more time shopping online. Now Globe is doing the same thing for its customers, pushing various digital applications including digital payments for easier and more convenient ways to do transactions. Whether paying bills, buying load, looking up data usage or pulling up a monthly statement, all these are served up through Globe’s mobile apps – the Globe One and TM app for mobile users and the Globe At Home app for broadband users. There’s also the Globe Rewards app so customers can redeem their loyalty points through several partner merchants or services. So far, customers are embracing the new ways of doing things as seen by the increasing daily app downloads since the start of the quarantine period. As more companies, whether big or small enterprises pivot towards work from home arrangements, there will be a significant reliance on internet access and e-commerce to keep businesses afloat.

Philippine home services company GoodWork raises $1.6m Nikkei Asian Review 18th May 2020
Philippine home services e-commerce platform GoodWork has raised $1.6 million in seed funding, led by California-based venture capital fund Chaac Ventures, according to an announcement. The round also saw participation from investors Elysium Venture Capital and Kairos K50, and angel investors from Facebook and Snapchat. GoodWork was founded in October 2018 by Andrew Koger, who previously ran Lazada's fulfillment operations in the Philippines. The company plans to use the cash to expand its business across Southeast Asia. It offers an array of home services ranging from cleaning, laundry delivery, air conditioner cleaning and home repairs, to health and beauty services such as manicures and pedicures. The company says it handled more than 10,000 jobs a month in its first year, with more than 70% of daily bookings coming from repeat customers. "We are excited to lead GoodWork's seed round and we are looking forward to providing all of Southeast Asia with services that will improve people's day-to-day lives," said Luke Armour, Chaac Ventures founder and CEO. Chaac Ventures is a seed venture capital fund focused primarily on technology businesses founded by Princeton University alumni. Its investments are modest, ranging in size from $100,000 to $1 million.

Infrastructure

Infrastructure spending falls in Q1 Business World 25th May 2020
INFRASTRUCTURE spending slumped in the first quarter, as public construction activities were temporarily halted in March due to the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). Data from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) showed disbursements on infrastructure and other capital outlays dropped 12.4% to P156.1 billion in the January to March period, due to “base effect of high infrastructure expenditures” a year ago, and the “temporary suspension of construction activities due to the ECQ.” The latest figure fell short of its P191.1-billion program set by the Development and Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) in late March.

Quality must prevail in post-pandemic infrastructure development Asian Development Blog 18th May 2020
Out of crisis comes opportunity is a common refrain and perhaps there is no better time than now to preview what follows on the COVID-19 relief and recovery support. Infrastructure development has been a cornerstone of Asia and the Pacific’s ’s successful growth and development strategy. It has served to strengthen income per capita, improve livelihoods and lower poverty through investment led growth. In parallel, it has supported the Sustainable Development Goals, recognizing the crucial link between infrastructure development and service delivery. High quality infrastructure is critical to continue to deliver on these gains. The Quality of Infrastructure Investment (QII) was central to the deliberations of the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, which endorsed the new G20 Principles for QII at their meeting in Fukuoka, Japan in 2019. This comprises a broader, robust and dedicated approach to sound project preparation practices over the project lifecycle including the adoption of innovative technology, environmental and social sustainability, resilience against natural disasters, and governance for procurement transparency and robust institutions. Investments aligned with these principles will support the value for money proposition, help extend the life of the infrastructure asset and thereby increase the returns on investment across both end-users and investors, enhancing social welfare. Gradually, these principles are gaining traction across countries. In the People’s Republic of China (PRC), for example, the Measures for the Administration of Infrastructure and Public Utility Concessions took effect in 2015. They enabled competition for public-private partnerships (PPPs) between private and state-owned bidders, and encouraged bankable projects and risk transfer over the project life cycle. The preparatory phase of the project cycle is crucial in ensuring that only a well-structured, commercially viable PPP projects—which are more likely to provide value for money—are procured by governments. The preparation phase in the project cycle includes appraisal of fiscal affordability, social and environmental assessment, risk identification, financial viability, comparing public and private options and sounding out the market.    After COVID-19, strong and resilient infrastructure will have help Asia and the Pacific to prosper  Asia has some work to do on this score. The Procuring Public Private Partnerships in Infrastructure Report by the World Bank found that, based on an index from 0 to 100, of global best practices for project preparation, East Asia and the Pacific scored 40 compared to an average 65 for high-income OECD countries. This demonstrates the need for more work in Asia to bridge the gap between theory and practice when it comes to implementing project preparation practices associated with the quality infrastructure principles. There is no greater compelling case for quality infrastructure than now. All countries will come out of the crisis with significantly larger public debts.  Infrastructure investments will have to meet three key indicators:—efficiency, affordability, and sustainability. On efficiency, considerable progress is needed.  In a review of public investment management frameworks of 30 emerging, low, and middle-income countries, the International Monetary Fund concluded that 30% of potential economic benefits of public investments are lost due to inefficiencies in the public investment process.  On affordability and inclusion, COVID-19 has led to the further widening of already yawning inequalities across this region including between those securing and losing their jobs and varied levels of access to health services. IMF research shows that GINI coefficients—a widely accepted measurement of inequality–have risen by nearly 1.5% five years after pandemics. From a public policy perspective, greater attention to financing will be required. For example, tariffs should be part of a wider package of financing–and not the driver—including tax revenue and returns from land value capture to ensure wider infrastructure service availability. Infrastructure investment with proper appraisal and aligned to QII can help to turn the tide on inequality by providing inclusive infrastructure that is more affordable and accessible by all. On sustainability, there is no greater threat than climate change and natural disasters.  Addressing these threats requires innovative and inclusive solutions to foster new technologies that enhance resilience, boost green investment in a decarbonized economy, and to leverage innovative technology throughout the project lifecycle. Economic and financial sustainability and strengthening institutions will be equally important in a world of scarce resources and limited fiscal headroom in the pandemic’s immediate aftermath. A recent survey of finance ministries, central banks, and academics in G20 countries showed that green investment has a positive impact on the speed at which the stimulus delivers economic impact for every dollar invested. The question is how to effectively internalize future returns on an infrastructure project against upfront construction costs exacerbated by the pressing fiscal and financing constraints caused by COVID-19. Emergency financial support should be integrated into a fiscal framework that does not jeopardize debt sustainability. In the medium to long term, however, a sound fiscal framework should be combined with increased investment in high-quality infrastructure that provides direct positive social and economic impacts, climate resilience, and more effective delivery of public goods and services. Quality infrastructure is not a luxury good that would be nice if affordable. It is a necessary good that delivers a positive return on public investment as well as measurable economic benefits. Beyond ramping up finance to meet the immediate crisis, multilateral development banks can help their borrowing members by ensuring infrastructure investment is in line with the Quality Infrastructure Investment principles.

Legislation

Bitter mix: Liquor bans, ECQ bring sin taxes down by nearly 100 percent Phil Daily Inquirer 27th May 2020
t an online forum on Wednesday, Finance Undersecretary Gil S. Beltran said excise collections from cigarettes and alcoholic drinks dropped by 99.1 percent last April from P18.1 billion in 2019. Besides the ban on sale and purchase of alcoholic beverages and reduction in domestic cigarette production during the ECQ, Beltran also noted that consumer demand for non-essential goods like these sin products had been tempered by the lockdown. In April, cigarette removals slid 99.2 percent to just three million packs from 355.5 million a year ago. The volume of fermented liquors brought out of factories dropped 99.9 percent to 0.2 million liters from 174.2 million liters last year, while the volume of distilled spirits skidded 95.7 percent to 1.4 million proof liters from 32.5 million. Total sin tax collections from January to April declined 57.1 percent to P30.6 billion from P71.2 billion during the first four months of 2019, despite higher excise rates slapped on both cigarettes and alcoholic drinks effective Jan. 1 this year. Given expectations of weak demand for the rest of the year, the Cabinet-level Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) slashed this year’s target incremental revenues from the new laws imposing additional excise on cigarettes, e-cigarettes and alcohol to P13.2 billion from P37.1 billion previously.

Amendments to Anti-Money Laundering Act take backseat in House Business World 25th May 2020
A MEASURE seeking to amend the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) has been placed on the back burner as Congress focuses on passing measures such as the Philippine Economic Stimulus Act (PESA) and Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer (FIST) Bill which aims to address the economic impact of the ongoing coronavirus crisis. House Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries Chair and Quirino Rep. Junie E. Cua said the coronavirus pandemic has prompted Congress to change its priorities in legislation. “We need to attend more importantly to rescuing our economy and so we need to focus more on measures that will enable us to recover fast, to empower our banking industry… in anticipation of business failures in the coming months. So ito ngayon ang (for now, this is) more important to us,” Mr. Cua told BusinessWorld in a phone interview on Sunday. House Bill 6174, which proposes to introduce more stringent provisions in Republic Act 9160 or the AMLA, has been pending with the House Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries since February. At the Senate, the counterpart measure, Senate Bill 1412, is also pending at the committee level.

DOF to Senate: Pass new Citira to aid business BusinessMirror 22nd May 2020
With just more than a week left before Congress adjourns, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III urged the Senate to pass the  economic team’s proposal to drastically cut the corporate income tax (CIT) rate from 30 percent to 25 percent this year along with other “investor-friendly measures.” Through the urgent passage of the “calibrated” Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act (Citira), Dominguez, who heads the government’s economic team, said Congress can help stimulate the economy amid the Covid-19 pandemic given that the measure would free up almost P42 billion in business capital for 2020 alone and P625 billion over the succeeding five years. The former Citira was renamed by the economic team as Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act  (CREATE) as this was integrated into the country’s economic recovery program.

Six local government units approve inclusion in ‘Balik Probinsya’ program BusinessMirror 18th May 2020
DAVAO CITY—Six local governments, four of them in Mindanao, have agreed to accept disadvantaged local migrants in big cities back to their localities in the “Balik Probinsiya” (return to the province) program. The Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) identified the localities as Zamboanga del Norte, Kauswagan in Lanao del Norte, Malaybalay in Bukidnon and M’lang in North Cotabato, all in Mindanao. The other two provinces outside Mindanao are Leyte and Camarines Sur. The program has been upgraded to tap the returning families, now residing in cramped residential areas in Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao, to be engaged in a specific economic activity that has been already identified by these willing LGUs. The industries identified would be supported by any or all of the 22 national government agencies that have been tasked to provide the assistance..

Citira, now CREATE, cuts CIT to 25%; means P259 billion in revenue loss till 2022 BusinessMirror 13th May 2020
THE government is pushing for a measure that would immediately reduce corporate income tax (CIT) from 30 percent to 25 percent, but this would be at the expense of at least P259.4 billion in expected revenue loss until 2022. The repackaged Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act (Citira) will now be called Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act or CREATE, based on the presentation of Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua to the House of Representatives. In the presentation, obtained by the BusinessMirror, Chua said the proposed CREATE is part of the recovery stage under the Philippine Program for Recovery with Equity (PH-Progreso), or the proposed economic recovery program of the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC).

‘Drastic’ cut in corporate income tax rate to rescue MSMEs pushed | Elijah Felice Rosales BusinessMirror 13th May 2020
The government will be treading the right path in rescuing private firms, especially micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), if it trims the corporate income tax (CIT) rate to 25 percent the soonest, industry leaders said on Tuesday. Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council Private Sector Representative George T. Barcelon said a “drastic” CIT cut will relieve a lot of firms struggling to survive the ill effects of the coronavirus pandemic. In particular, MSMEs will benefit from any state move to reduce the CIT rate to 25 percent immediately, he added. “This accelerated CIT reduction is a big help to business establishments, especially in view of present financial challenges,” Barcelon told the BusinessMirror.

CITIRA faces ‘tweaks’ to maximize potential as stimulus measure Business World 6th May 2020
OBJECTIONS to the corporate tax reform bill could be receding because of its potential for resuscitating the economy, though it may need to be reconfigured before it becomes a full-blown post-pandemic stimulus measure, legislators from both chambers said. Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said after a caucus Monday that senators agreed to include the proposed Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act (CITIRA), or Senate Bill No. 1357, in the May 4-June 5 agenda. CITIRA was initially positioned as a corporate tax reform measure. It lowers the corporate income tax (CIT) to 20% eventually and streamlines fiscal incentives. The measure was passed in the House in September but stalled in the Senate before it recessed for the Easter break, during the course of which the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak locked down Luzon and disrupted the economy.

Travel & Tourism

NAIA revenue losses reach P1 billion philstar.com 8th May 2020
Revenue losses at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) have reached almost P1 billion as of end-April as the country’s aviation industry continues to reel from the effects of the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 pandemic. In terms of passenger movements per day, NAIA averaged about 768 flights per day prior to the pandemic. Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Ed Monreal said during the Laging Handa virtual briefing yesterday. This has plunged to only 10 flights at most a day prior to the suspension of inbound international passenger/commercial flights last May 3.