MANILA -- The Philippines will "restart and accelerate" its P8 trillion infrastructure program, hire contact-tracers "en masse" and push food production as part of efforts to reboot the economy from the COVID-19 pandemic, the head of President Rodrigo Duterte's economic team said Tuesday.
Some 1.2 million to 1.5 million jobs were "temporarily lost" due to the pandemic, said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez. "We need to do many things to revive the economy," he said.
Last week, the Philippines reported a 0.2-percent shrinkage in first quarter gross domestic product, the first contraction since 1998. The 2 succeeding quarters are expected to show contractions as the full effect of the lockdown is reflected.
"After we are confident that we are in control of the death rate and infections, we should restart and accelerate Build Build Build subject to minimum health standards," he said.
"Our real problem is that the people are not buying things because their incomes have gone down. We must provide them the means of buying things," he said.
"If they're not buying things it's useless to stimulate the companies," he said.
Contact tracers will be hired "en masse to boost efforts to stop transmissions and defeat" the pandemic, he said.
Dominguez pushed for the passage of the second tranche of tax reforms aimed at corporate duties. It will now include "flexible tax and non-tax incentives," he said.
Consumer demand should be stimulated, targeting foods, which consumers will buy, "regardless of income and price," he said.
"We must push food production and food logistics," he said.
The government is working with lawmakers on recovery legislation that will include shielding micro and small and medium enterprises from the fallout, he said.