MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte "seems to be setting a low bar" for the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic when he said that the country could expect to return to normalcy only in 2023, an economist said on Tuesday.
Economist Calixto Chikiamco also said Duterte’s statement will also damage and delay the country's economic recovery.
“It is kind of scary because it will put a chill on consumption, it will put a chill on lending, it will put a chill on investments. It is quite a pessimistic scenario, because that will mean you will have 2 more years where you have some kind of lockdown, and mobility restrictions, and this will of course take a toll on the economy, on government revenues, on the need for social protection," Chikiamco said.
Consumer rights activist and former Trade Undersecretary Vic Dimagiba also said the forecast is dangerous, and urged the President to take back his statement.
“Maniniwala s'ya dun kasi Pangulo sya eh. Yun ang kailangan nating bawiin, bawiin natin ang ganong klaseng statement, by offering professional and honest suggestions."
(They will believe that because he's the President. That should be taken back, take back that kind of statement by offering professional and honest suggestions.)
Last Sunday, Duterte said Filipinos may see some sense of normalcy by the "first or second quarter of year '23."
Duterte made the statement after the government received its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines donated by China.
Carlito Galvez Jr, Chief Implementer of the National Task Force on COVID-19, also earlier said the country may return to normalcy by 2023.
Chikiamco said Duterte's statement undermines the vaccine program of his own government, as there are opportunities for the government to take charge of the situation through vaccination.
“It seems to me they are quite setting a low bar for their own performance in terms of vaccination. Frankly, I think by the end of the year, there should be enough supply worldwide because by the summer of this year the US is projecting they would already be normal, and achieve their targets, so there will probably be an excess supply by the end of the year, for a lot of other countries," he said.
Chikiamco also pointed out that other vaccine manufacturers are ramping up production.
"So I think the best-case scenario is for us to be able to vaccinate our population by 2022."
Dimagiba also said the public must demand a better and clearer vaccination plan.
"Dito po sa ASEAN, ang nababasa ko, mga kapitbahay nating bansa, baka by the end of the year back to their normal place na sila," Dimagiba said.
(In ASEAN, I read that our neighboring countries, by the end of the year, they expect to be back to their normal place.)
The Philippines is the last country in Southeast Asia to receive COVID-19 vaccines. A shipment of donated Sinovac vaccines from China arrived on Sunday.
Another shipment from British drugmaker AstraZeneca was supposed to arrive last Monday, but the delivery was postponed indefinitely, officials said.
Last year, the Philippines suffered its worst economic contraction since the end of World War 2. Economists expect the recession to extend to the first three months of 2021.