By Mary Grace Padin, March 9, 2020; The Philippine Star

Manila, Philippines — The Duterte administration’s Economic Development Cluster is set to meet tomorrow to discuss the potential economic impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 outbreak, according to the Department of Finance (DOF).

In a press briefing last Friday, Finance Secretary and cluster head Carlos Dominguez said the economic cluster would examine COVID-19’s impact, particularly on tourism, manufacturing and construction.

“We’re meeting on Tuesday, the Economic Development Cluster (EDC) to really take a look at the potential impact on the different sectors of our society, including tourism, industry and construction. We’re gonna take a look at that on Tuesday,” Dominguez said.

He said the EDC would gather data from different agencies, which will then be discussed during the next Development Budget Coordination Committee meeting.

According to the finance chief, only the virus’ impact on the tourism sector is clear at the moment.

“What’s not so clear is the impact on the productive capacity of our trading partners and the supply chain, and also the demand for our products – that’s quite unclear at the moment,” he said.

Citing initial data from the BOC, the DOF said the volume of imports from China last February declined by 34.7 percent year-on-year. But Dominguez said the government is still determining which specific industries are affected by the drop.

Asked if the COVID-19 outbreak has caused a disruption in the progress of the government’s Build Build Build program, presidential adviser for Flagship Programs and Projects Vince Dizon said no adverse impacts have been noted yet.

The government is targeting to complete 50 out of 100 flagship infrastructure projects by 2022.

“Right now, we’re not seeing any effects yet. But we have to closely monitor that,” he said, noting that many construction materials and heavy equipment are sourced by contractors from China.

“But looking at what’s happening in China now I think it’s getting much better. It’s actually the other parts of the world that are having some new problems. In fact, we heard that even areas like Shanghai and some parts proximate to Hubei province are really going back to normal,” Dizon said.

Dominguez, meanwhile, said the construction sector may not immediately feel the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

“You have to look at the cycle of inventory. People here in the Philippines stock up materials way in advance. So you won’t see an immediate effect if there’s a slowdown because there’s inventory here,” he said.

The secretary also noted that contractors may have already explored other sources of materials.