Maximum efforts needed to boost Philippine trade industry to help economy overcome COVID-19 global pandemic

As the Philippines continues to overcome the extraordinary impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic and thus the resulting challenges of a significant global economic slowdown, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said the government must intensify trade sector reforms for the economy to be able to prevail.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported Wednesday, April 8 that the country’s total merchandise trade contracted by 5.9 percent, reaching USD 12.5 billion in February 2020.

In a statement, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said that “The public health emergency we are experiencing emphasizes the need to fast track reforms to facilitate trade by reducing transaction costs. We must be creative in finding ways to ease the movement of goods and services while we continue to implement measures to combat Covid-19.”

February’s trade performance was primarily caused by the 11.6-percent decline in imports, even as exports managed a positive growth of 2.8 percent.

“We must aggressively pursue and prioritize the digitization of import and export documents, with the institutionalization of the TradeNet system as well as the utilization of cashless payments for all government services,” he said.

In February 2020, merchandise exports did continue to expand although slower, but with increased exports of agro-based products, mineral products, petroleum products and manufactured products.

Import performance on the other hand, fell due to lower orders for capital goods, mineral fuels and lubricants, consumer goods, and raw material and intermediate goods.

“While the government has eased the burden to businesses by allowing rent, bills and utilities payment extension, efforts should also be given to help them restart their operations and defray the cost of lost revenues,” he said.

Secretary Pernia said this can be done in the form of temporary reprieve of demurrage and customs fees or waiving of navigational charges for the airline industry—the hardest hit industry as a result of the restrictions placed on travel.

Further, businesses should be advised to formulate and act on their contingency plans that will specifically provide protocols for arising different emergency situations, he said.

“The country’s experience in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic has brought home the crucial importance of synergy of efforts of the government, private sector and citizens. Such cooperation in making limited resources work should be part of the new normal that will emerge after this pandemic,” he added.

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