MANILA - The coronavirus pandemic unveiled the Philippines' transformative potential to get rid of its "archaic" ways and to digitalize systems in the public and private sector, ex-Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario said Friday.
Despite causing a global economic nightmare, COVID-19 has allowed the country to urgently address flaws in governance, health and economic ecosystems, Del Rosario, who is also the chair of Stratbase ADR Institute, said during a virtual forum.
"This crisis unveiled a transformative potential that is actually achievable. Fortunately the tech-savviness of Filipinos has proven to be a great asset," he said.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the government has been pushing for technology-based reforms such as the use of digital payments, online disbursement of pension instead of cheque, and finding ways to digitize distribution of cash aid, among others.
Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua also earlier said the pandemic highlighted the need for "urgent automation," beginning with the rollout of the National ID system.
Private and public sector have quickly adapted to the new normal which resulted in jobs for Filipinos such as in logistics, mobility sector and the surge in online transactions, Del Rosario said.
"Public and private institution can no longer claim their old ways and must step up their digital transformation. This reality is probably evident in the surging volume of online transactions and demand of broadband services," Del Rosario said.
E-commerce, logistics services, and fintech, among others, have gained traction in 2020 as Filipinos who are stuck at home sought ways to continue their way of life.
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno earlier said digitalization has helped "economic gears running" in 2020, citing increased use of InstaPay and PESONet.
The government is also urged to engage private sector to hasten economic recovery.
"There is undeniable public consensus that the government should engage proactively with the private sector to fast track economic recovery," Del Rosario said.
"Biggest lesson is that we must maintain balance of our health and the environment, sustain the economy and the only way we can do this is if we work as a whole society," he added.
COVID-19 resulted in prolonged economic doldrums, which started in 2020 with the gross domestic product contracting by 9.5 percent last year, one of the "steepest plunges" recorded in Southeast Asia, he said.
Inflation quickened to 4.7 percent in February and is likely to breach the government target of 2 to 4 percent for the entire year, he added.
Conglomerates and private sector groups have been instrumental in raising isolation, testing and vaccine rollout capacity of the Philippines since the onset of COVID-19.