Philippines is More Than Ready for the New Normal
Metro Manila and other regions in the Philippines have transitioned to Alert Level 1 in the past two weeks with flying colors. The further reopening of the economy proved to be uneventful, as daily Covid-19 cases continued to decline despite the more relaxed business environment that allowed more people to go to work.
The decline in daily infections below 1,000 seems to be holding up and supports the recommendation of the National Economic and Development Authority to place the entire nation under Alert Level 1. The nation is more than ready to settle for the “new normal.”
This new phase means workers and consumers can do their chores without mobility restrictions while remaining mindful of the health protocols that helped us through the pandemic. The fact that new cases are still being recorded each day, albeit fewer, is a reminder that the virus is still out there, and that we should do our part not to catch and transmit it to other people.
Another form of restriction, however, is limiting our mobility. The excessive fuel prices are constraining motorists from visiting other domestic destinations in the face of the Ukraine-Russia conflict that threatens the stability of Europe. The Philippines may be thousands of miles away from the war zone but the hostilities are affecting the commodities market—we rely heavily on imported fuel, corn, and wheat.
Hopefully, Ukraine and Russia will arrive at a diplomatic solution to the conflict. A prolonged war will hurt the global economy, including our price-sensitive nation.
The fighting has amplified the necessity to secure our energy supplies as well. We can’t allow external developments to continue disrupting our inflation and economic targets. We must find stabilizing factors, such as less reliance on imported fossil products.
Now is the opportune time to accelerate our shift to electric vehicles, which is also good for the environment. Relying on more trains and other mass transportation systems—like buses and other public utility vehicles—that run on electricity powered by renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal will significantly reduce our dependence on imported crude.
Many advanced economies have already started their own program of phasing out the traditional automobiles in favor of electric-fed vehicles. It is part of the “new normal” as we become more conscious of carbon emissions that contribute to global warming.
Meanwhile, the shift to Alert Level 1, along with the robust financial performance of the corporate sector and solid economic indicators, points to a sustained and faster economic rebound in 2022.
But the full reopening of all schools to in-person classes and the tourism sector remain the weakest link in the recovery process. I consider them the two final steps towards the new normal.
Fortunately, airlines, hotels, resorts, restaurants, and other tourism-oriented establishments have started hiring workers again after the Philippines became the first Asian country to accept fully vaccinated foreign leisure travelers under the most relaxed entry protocols.
The recent reopening of our borders is bearing fruit. The Department of Tourism registered over 70,000 international arrivals since the Philippines reopened to 157 visa-free countries in February. Airlines are taking the cue. They have announced more flights this month in anticipation of rising demand from both international and domestic passengers.
The Department of Tourism expects more international visitor arrivals in April when the country hosts the World Travel and Tourism Council summit. About 600 tourism and trade ministers and private sector executives are expected to participate in the summit on April 20 to 22.
The influx of foreign tourists is a welcome development. They support the small entrepreneurs. Tourists are shoppers, consumers, and potential investors who can help us recover faster from the impact of the pandemic. We always appreciate new investments, bright ideas, and exciting innovations from other countries that can help us raise our competitive advantage.
Despite the alarming developments overseas, we should remain focused on generating more investments and offering economic opportunities to strengthen our position as a nation in the new normal. To our visitors, it’s all systems go in the Philippine economy.