MANILA - The Philippines’ economic recovery got a shot in the arm with the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines, the country’s Trade chief said on Wednesday as he thanked China for its donation of Sinovac vaccines.
“The arrival of the vaccine and the immediate rollout of the vaccination program the following day certainly brought about heightened optimism in seeing the beginning of the end of COVID-19 pandemic,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said during a virtual forum hosted by the Chinese embassy.
Lopez also said China’s vaccine donation to the Philippines showed the “strong friendship” between the two countries.
“This strong bond of friendship was once again witnessed last Sunday with the arrival of the first batch of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine donated by China. This donation—which the Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian worked hard for, and backed up by no less than Chinese President Xi Jinping—has brought much hope to the Filipino people.“
The Trade chief there are already signs of economic recovery from the pandemic.
“Despite our GDP falling to -9.5 percent in 2020, we saw diminishing declines in the latter quarters of last year. From a record-low -16.5 percent in the 2nd quarter to -11.5 percent in the 3rd quarter and -8.3 percent in the 4th quarter,” Lopez said.
On a quarter-on-quarter basis, Lopez said the country’s GDP grew by 8 percent from 2nd to 3rd quarter, and 5.6 percent from 3rd to 4th quarter.
Lopez added that the barometer for manufacturing activities, the Philippine Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), likewise, showed a steady rebound in January showing a 52.5 index, and remained unchanged in February.
“Any number above the 50 marks growth in the sector. This came from a huge decline at 31.6 last April 2020 at the height of the lock down. As our economy recovers, we are confident of achieving our pre-pandemic growth rates and beyond," he said.
The Philippines’ socioeconomic planning chief said in January that the Philippine economy was likely to see positive growth in the second quarter of the year, suggesting that GDP growth rate was likely to remain negative in the first three months of the year.
A former member of the government's economic team has also said the economy might not return to pre-pandemic levels until late 2022 partly due to the government's sluggish pandemic response.
Despite borrowing heavily to fund its pandemic response, the Philippines has the second highest tally of infections and deaths due to the disease in Southeast Asia. It was also the last in the region to secure supplies of COVID-19 vaccines
Last January, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also trimmed its growth forecast for the Philippines to 6.6 percent this year, from an initial 7.4 percent forecast given in October, amid uncertainty over the vaccine rollout and continued restriction measures.
- Report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News