‘Vaccine distribution, pro-biz policies to aid PH recovery’

The efficient distribution of coronavirus vaccines, education, and favorable investment policies are the most important matters the government should focus on this year to help the country rebound from the Covid-19 crisis, according to a business group leader.

This Dec. 31, 2020 photo shows people gathering at one part of Blumentritt Market on Blumentritt Street, Santa Cruz, Manila, to check out or buy goods before going home to celebrate the coming of the new year with their families. Coco Alcuaz of the Makati Business Club told The Manila Times that the efficient distribution of coronavirus vaccines, education, and favorable investment policies are the most important matters the government should focus on this year to help the country rebound from the Covid-19 crisis. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

Coco Alcuaz, executive director of the Makati Business Club (MBC), told The Manila Times that as far as his sector was concerned, the government must “provide [an] environment for small businesses and big companies to produce and deliver products, services, and jobs.”

“For next year, the four most important [issues would] be vaccine logistics; transportation; education; and pro-job [and] pro-investment policies,” he said.

The government should work hard on making logistics as efficient as possible, so that once the vaccines arrive, they can be transported, refrigerated, and administered as effectively as possible, according to him.

“While the private sector is working to bring in 5 million doses of vaccines, other governments already have orders in the tens of millions. The government can only play catch-up there,” Alcuaz said.

“If people see this happening efficiently, however belatedly, it will boost consumer and investor confidence. The private sector is working closely with the government on this,” he added.

The government should also ensure that there is adequate transportation, especially in Metro Manila, the MBC offcial said.

“For one, there [is the] need [for] more buses on EDSA and elsewhere, even if they are far from full. People need to be confident that they will have a short wait at the bus stop and that the bus won’t be packed,” he explained.

Enough mass transportation would help people get the economy on track to recovery safely, Alcauz said.

The government must also continue focusing on the education sector, he said, noting that its challenges are “growing.”

According to him, the coronavirus pandemic-induced economic downturn resulted in job losses that led to more students dropping out, the strict lockdowns imposed to curb the virus’ spread kept children physically out of school, and failure to invest in a telecommunications backbone and provide computers makes remote learning difficult, if not impossible.

“The results of [all these] will be felt when these [children] are scheduled to graduate, making our people and country even less competitive than we already are,” Alcuaz said.
Visionary public-private leadership is needed to put an educational recovery plan in place, he said.

“They may have to agree to cut spending on items such as pork barrel and intelligence funds and/or seek more education-specific financing [for] Covid-specific interventions and raise per-student spending to competitive levels,” Alcuaz said.

“If we don’t invest in our citizens and workers, everything else we do will be harder and less productive in the next years and decades,” he warned.

Passing amendments to the Public Services Act would also help the country attract more investments, Alcuaz said. Doing so, he added, would “relax foreign investment rules, and firm up policies that preserve and create jobs, focusing on employee benefits and competitive labor laws.”

Stimulus measures

Meanwhile, the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) also urged the government to quickly pass the other stimulus bills to help the economy recover.

“We hope to see the early enactment of other stimulus bills, such as the Create (Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act) and Bayanihan 3 bills, to further stimulate the economy,” MAP President Francis Lim said in a statement, referring to Senate Bills (SB) 1357 and 1953, respectively.

Approved on third and final reading in the Senate on November 26, Create proposes lowering the country’s corporate income tax (CIT) rate from 30 percent to 20 percent for local businesses with a net taxable income equivalent to P5 million and below, and with total assets (excluding land) not exceeding P100 million; and to 25 percent for other companies.

It also seeks to modernize fiscal incentives by making them performance-based, targeted, time-bound and transparent.

Filed by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto in mid-December, SB 1953, or the “Bayanihan to Rebuild as One Act,” Bayanihan 3 seeks P485 billion to accelerate economic-recovery reforms.

Of the amount, P55 billion will be earmarked to procure coronavirus medications and vaccines; another P55 billion for vaccine handling, hiring contact tracers, testing, and treatment; P100 billion for worker subsidies; another P100 billion to enhance the capacity of critically impacted sectors; and P70 billion for additional social amelioration to pandemic-hit households.

Lim also urged the government to acquire the vaccines, saying it “should not leave any stone unturned,” and must “inoculate as many people as possible, as this is essential to regain public confidence and hasten our economic recovery.”

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