‘PH economy to grow 6% in 2021’

BDO Unibank Inc. forecasts a slower economic recovery for the Philippines in 2021 after taking into consideration the surge in coronavirus infections this month.

During a virtual economic forum organized by the Italian Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines Inc. on Tuesday, BDO first vice president and chief strategist Jonathan Ravelas said the Sy-led banking giant projected gross domestic product (GDP) to grow by 6 percent this year.

This July 2020 file photo shows part of the Ortigas Center, one of Metro Manila’s commercial and financial hubs that is home to some of the country’s top corporations. A BDO Unibank Inc. official said on Tuesday a resurgence in
infections could slow the country’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

The figure is lower than BDO’s earlier estimate of 6.6 percent and misses the government’s official forecast range of 6.5 to 7.5 percent.

If proven true, it would reverse the economy’s 9.5-percent contraction in 2020.

“Prior to the start of 2021, we were looking at least a 6.6-percent growth in the economy, primarily driven [by expectations] that we would have probably reopened as early as around this time,” Ravelas said.

However, recent developments indicate that the country’s further reopening “will most likely be pushed” back, with the first-quarter GDP print likely to remain negative, he added.

“So basically we would probably see at least 6-percent growth… The risk with these rising [numbers of] infections and stricter quarantines, I guess, would have an impact on how we see 2021.”

The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases jumped by 4,437 to 631,320, of which 57,736 are active, according to the latest Department of Health data on Tuesday. Of the total, 560,736 have recovered and 12,848 did not.

Tuesday’s new cases were lower than Monday’s 5,404, the fourth-highest single-day infection tally the country recorded and the highest since 5,277 on August 26.

The past week has seen the daily infection toll consistently surpassing the 4,000 mark, sparking fears of a return to stricter quarantines. It also prompted local government officials to impose localized lockdowns and a uniform nighttime curfew in an attempt to keep cases from rising.

Ravelas said the government’s vaccination program could gain traction toward the second half of the year, adding that it would also take two to three years before the government inoculates close to 70 million Filipinos.

Committed to inoculate all adult Filipinos

His remarks come as Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd reiterated the government’s commitment to vaccinate all adult Filipinos within this year.

“The prompt and substantial financing extended by our multilateral partners is crucial to the accomplishment of the Duterte administration’s target to inoculate at least 70 million Filipinos — or 100 percent of our adult population — hopefully within this year, so that we can safely open wide our economy and return it to its pre-pandemic path of high and inclusive growth,” he was quoted as saying in a Department of Finance statement on Tuesday.

Even if the government has secured sufficient funds for its vaccine procurement drive, the pace of the rollout would depend on how fast suppliers can deliver the ordered doses to the country, he added.

Last week, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank announced that they approved a total of $900 million (about P43.65 billion) in loans to be extended to the government to fund its purchase of coronavirus vaccines.

Dominguez also said the Philippines was negotiating to secure doses for 92 million individuals, or more than 100 percent of the adult population, to account for any possible delay in deliveries or slippages.