'Transitory' economic downturn may last 2 quarters: Pernia

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 31 2020 10:27 AM | Updated as of Mar 31 2020 10:48 AM

Volunteers distribute goods in Barangay Batis, San Juan City on March 23, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said Tuesday the Philippine economy could register zero or negative growth in the second and third quarters due to the COVID-19 pandemic before it bounces back late this year. 

Pernia said some 300,000 to 600,000 Filipinos could lose their jobs due to the lockdown imposed until April 12 to contain the spread of the coronavirus. It could bring unemployment rate to "close to double digits" this year from a record low of 5.1 percent in 2019, he said. 

The downturn is expected to be "transitory" as cash aid under the government's recovery and stimulus plan will revive household spending, Pernia told ANC.

Some 18 million families expected to lose livelihood due to the Luzon-wide lockdown, will receive cash aid for 2 months. 

"Although we can expect some negative growth perhaps the second quarter, probably moving to the third quarter but those will be transitory. We should be able to resuscitate the economy to a positive growth rate by the 4th quarter or later in the year," Pernia said.

"We hope it's not going to be negative even in the third quarter if we do something about the enhanced community quarantine before the third quarter," he said. 

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A technical working group headed by NEDA has been created to revive the economy, Pernia said. 

"I think the plan is to revive consumer and business confidence even sooner," he said.

"That’s going to be the way which we could plan systematically to get back to where we were before," he said.

The economy could register negative growth of 0.6 percent to an expansion of 4.3 percent this year, depending on how long the Luzon lockdown will last, Pernia earlier said.