ECCP at Work

ECCP@Work Featured Articles | May 10, 2024

May 10, 2024

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ECCP at Work

Foreign chambers call for swift passage of Konektadong Pinoy bill

The Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines (JFC) called for the passage of the Konektadong Pinoy bill to help bridge the digital divide and strengthen the Philippines’ internet infrastructure. The JFC, citing a World Bank study, said that only 33% of Filipino households have access to fixed internet due to high costs and a lack of internet infrastructure. It added that the Philippines also lags its middle-income peers in the region in terms of internet access, speed, and affordability.

Philippines' GDP expanded 5.7% in first quarter of 2024

The Philippine economy grew 5.7 percent in the first quarter of 2024, according to the PSA. Among the major contributors to the gross domestic product growth from January to March were the financial and insurance activities and wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles and manufacturing.

Trade deficit narrows to $3.18B

Total trade in goods contracted by 15.4 percent to $15.44 billion during the month from $18.24 billion a year earlier, with imports totaling $9.31 billion and exports $6.13 billion. Imports plunged by 20.0 percent, reversing from February's 6.5-percent growth and also markedly faster than the year-earlier 1.2-percent drop.

Debt-to-GDP ratio remains above int’l threshold at 60.2%

Following the 5.7 percent gross domestic product (GDP) print in the first quarter, the share of national debt to the country’s output eased to 60.2 percent from 61 percent in the same period last year. However, this was slightly above the end-2023 debt-to-GDP ratio of 60.1 percent.

PHL jobless rate at two-month high

The national unemployment rate rose to 3.9%, equivalent to two million jobless Filipinos, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said in a report. The rate was 3.5% in February or 1.8 million jobless people, and 4.7% or 2.42 million a year earlier. The jobless rate averaged 4% last quarter compared with 4.8% a year earlier.

More mines seen to open amid push for e-vehicles 

The Philippines will likely see more mines opening up within as early as three years as the government expedites its push for electronic vehicles. On the sidelines of the recent 57th Asian Development Bank (ADB) Annual Meeting in Tbilisi, non-government organization Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) raised concern on the idea of climate-smart mining (CSM) initiated by multilateral lenders.

Poe seeks passage of Department of Water within 19th Congress

Senator Grace Poe assured Tuesday that she would "endeavor" to pass the measure seeking to create a Department of Water Resources (DWR) before the adjournment of the 19th Congress in 2025. Poe made the assurance as she convened the Senate Committee on Public Services for its first hearing on the measure. "We are about to go on a break before the SONA (state of the nation address), I think it’s unrealistic to say that we will pass it then, sa dami ng problema (with a lot of other problems), but we will endeavor to pass it definitely by this Congress because we have to, this is crucial," she told her colleagues.

DPWH eyes comprehensive flood control plan for efficient usage of water resources 

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is eyeing to integrate its flood control management programs with other sectors for efficient water management and conservation. In a Palace press briefing after a sectoral meeting with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Secretary Manuel Bonoan revealed that there would be a signing of a memorandum of agreement between the DPWH and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to incorporate flood control measures into both infrastructure development and environmental management.

Road disaster prevention gets boost

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), in partnership with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), reaffirmed its commitment to strengthen the country’s ability to mitigate the impact of natural hazards on its road network. The partnership between DPWH and JICA on the ongoing Technical Cooperation Project (TCP) for road disaster prevention and other countermeasures on mountainous roads is poised to yield tangible outcomes in developing innovative solutions suited to the unique challenges posed by mountainous terrain in the Philippines, particularly in the pilot regions of the Cordillera Administrative Region, Central Visayas and Davao Region.

Foreign reserves dip as gov't settles debts

The country's gross international reserves (GIR) slipped in April as the government paid off some of its debt and used foreign currencies for some spending items, the BSP reported. GIR settled at $103.4 billion as of end-April, down from $104.1 billion a month earlier, but was said to be still more than adequate to pay for the country's imports and short-term debt.

NGCP seeks completion of transmission line

The NGCP is seeking the assistance of stakeholders and the government to expedite the completion of the Amlan-Dumaguete 138-kilovolt (kV) Transmission Line that will mitigate potential power interruptions caused by the overloading of the Amlan-Siaton 69kV line. According to NGCP, the existing Amlan-Siaton line serving Negros Oriental, including Dumaguete, is already overloaded at 69 megawatts (MW) as of April 25, 2024, or beyond the normal limit of 58 MW.

Dry spell causes agriculture, fisheries 1 million job loss

The severe dry spell has caused the agriculture and fisheries sector to shed more than a million jobs in March 2024, according to the latest data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). Based on the March Labor Force Statistics (LFS), the number of employed Filipinos increased by 572,000 to 49.15 million in 2024 from the 48.58 million posted in the same period of 2023.

Q1 farm output inches up 0.05% despite El Niño

The country’s farm output posted a slight gain in the first quarter despite the havoc wreaked by El Niño on local plantations, based on data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). The crops, livestock, and fisheries subsectors recorded declines in terms of value, according to PSA data. The poultry and fisheries subsectors prevented the performance of Philippine agriculture from falling into negative territory.

House leader backs call to prioritize natural gas bill for stable power

Acidre said the House has already passed on third reading the proposed Philippine Downstream Natural Gas Industry (PDNGI) Development Act, a legislative priority of the Marcos administration. It seeks to establish the PDNGI to promote indigenous natural gas as a “safe, environment-friendly, efficient, and cost-effective source of energy.” Its counterpart bill in the Senate, SB 2247, authored by Sen. Raffy Tulfo, is now being reviewed by a technical working group.

Economic czar says renewable sector a priority for private sector partnership

The Renewable energy sector is among the priorities of the Philippines in its partnership with the private sector, the country’s economic czar said on Wednesday. Partnerships in the renewable energy sector are considered long-term investments since they are “multi-year projects,” Presidential Investment Adviser Frederick D. Go said in a chance interview near the presidential palace. “So it can’t be that our president would be invited, attract them to put up an investment and then in six months, it’s up,” he said. “Most of the renewable energy projects are four- or five-year projects.”

Inflation up slightly, but still within target

The rate of increase in the average prices of consumer goods and services typically purchased by Filipinos rose slightly to 3.8 percent in April from 3.7 percent in March, driven by faster increases in food and transport costs, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). This was the third straight month that inflation picked up, but the April inflation print was lower than the 6.6 percent in the same month last year and beat the forecast of over four percent made earlier by economists. It was also within the 3.5 to 4.3 percent forecast of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

Government, miners agree on fiscal regime proposal

Miners and government officials have reached a middle ground on the tiering of a proposed windfall profit tax for the mining industry that could pave the way for the approval of the long-awaited mining fiscal regime. Ronald Recidoro, executive director of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), said mining firms and the Department of Finance (DOF) have “mutually agreed” on a tiering system that is acceptable to both parties.

Senate resumes Cha-cha hearing; focus shifts to ease advertising ownership

The Senate on Thursday resumed deliberations on the proposed amendments to the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution. This time, the Senate subcommittee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes hearing will focus on the possible opening up of the advertising industry to foreign ownership as proposed in Resolution of Both Houses No. 6. Past Charter change discussions of the panel centered on easing restrictions on public utilities and education for foreigners.

New 6-year blueprint for MSMEs hikes SBCorp financial muscle

The new six-year blueprint for the country’s micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) is seen to increase the capacity of Small Business Corp.’s (SBCorp.) to provide financial assistance to Filipino small merchants, among others, according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). In a move to boost economic growth and innovation, Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual presented the MSME Development Plan 2023-2028 at a sectoral meeting in Malacañang last week. DTI said Pascual proposed financial measures critical to the plan’s success, among others, are embodied in the roadmap.

PH raises $2B from global dollar bonds

The Philippines has successfully raised $2 billion from its dual-tranche global bond offering, its first foreign denominated issuance for the year. In a statement yesterday, the Department of Finance (DOF) said the Republic took advantage of improving market sentiment following a softer-than-expected US labor market print which alleviated concerns over the Fed rate path. “The success of the offering illustrated the Republic’s ability to navigate an uncertain policy rate environment and respond efficiently to capture conducive market conditions,” the DOF said.

Agri performance slightly up

Agriculture production value in the country grew by 0.05 percent in the first quarter of the year, mainly due to the performance of the poultry subsectors, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. At constant 2018 prices, the growth was equivalent to a value of P428.99 billion. The poultry subsector was the only variable that recorded an improvement for the period at P68.76 billion, a 5.9 percent growth at constant 2018 prices for the quarter, accounting for 16 percent of total agricultural output.

BOC, DICT rolls out e-Travel Customs System

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) have launched the e-Travel Customs System in all international airports to enable passengers to declare their baggage and currencies electronically. The BOC announced that one QR code per passenger, whether arriving or departing, shall be used in the e-Travel System starting Thursday, May 10, for a “seamless travel clearance.” Through the e-Travel system, passengers can now fill out the electronic versions of the Customs Baggage Declaration Form (e-CBDF) and Currencies Declaration Form (e-CDF) using the e-Travel website at or by downloading the eGovPH application.

Low-hanging fruit and fiscal woes

In our column in another broadsheet last week, we stressed that building fiscal buffers is urgent. This is one way of ensuring that we reinforce the resiliency of the economy, what with the unprecedented stimulus package and hopelessly weak revenue collection during the COVID-19 pandemic. With sharp increases in both the fiscal deficit and public debt, fiscal buffers need to be built through higher saving, meaningful budget reallocation and conscionable public spending.

Surge in consumer spending seen this year

Consumer spending in the Philippines is expected to surge this year due to easing inflationary pressures, healthy employment conditions and lower borrowing costs, according to BMI Country Risk & Industry Research. In a report, BMI said household spending would likely grow by 6.4 percent to P12.7 trillion in 2024 from 5.1 percent last year. This is also higher than the previous estimate of 6.3 percent made in November 2023. “We have a positive outlook for consumer spending in the Philippines in 2024. Easing inflationary pressures, a slightly favorable labor market and lower interest rates form the base for consumer spending growth,” BMI said.

Below target growth dampens market

The stock market plunged yesterday as the below target economic expansion in the first quarter did not sit well with investors. The benchmark Philippine Stock Exchange index lost 1.75 percent or 116.72 points to close at 6542.46. It was the same fate for the broader All Shares index, which fell by one percent or 35.02 points at 3,481.55.

DTI: Retailers eye price freeze imposition

Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual took the lead on implementing necessary actions to address rising prices of some basic commodities due to the weather phenomenon during a meeting with industry stakeholders. "We are deeply committed to monitoring market conditions, advocating for consumer rights, and guiding our nation through these challenges," Pascual said on Thursday.

PH eyeing top spot in Asean creative economy 

Trade Secretary and Philippines' Creative Industries Development Act (PCIDA) Council Chairman Alfredo Pascual on Thursday said that one of their priorities is to boost the local creative industries, protect the intellectual property rights of the creatives and strengthen their capabilities.

NEDA: Tariff review completed at technical, committee level

The tariff review has been completed at the technical and the committee level, Balisacan said during the press briefing for the first quarter performance of the Philippine economy. The results of the review will be elevated to the NEDA Board for consideration in its next meeting in June.

PSAC pushing for policies to lift agricultural sector

The Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) and its agri sector leaders have urged the government to implement policies meant to improve the production of coconut, sugar and tobacco as well as the biotechnology regulations and agricultural export procedures.

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