By Cai Ordinario, March 11, 2020; Business Mirror
The President’s economic team played down the impact of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) on the country’s poverty rate, saying the Philippines remains on track to cut poverty to 11 percent by 2022.
In a briefing on Tuesday, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said the impact of COVID-19 would be “transitory, if at all.”
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said around 66 firms have implemented adjusted work arrangements and 19 of them temporarily stopped operation due to COVID-19.
“The estimated job losses are temporary. You know, hotels, travel industry and we think this will pick up after airlines, after the middle of the year, so it’s really a short-term loss,” Dominguez said.
“So I don’t think there’s going to be much effect on our poverty numbers and we still keep on holding on to our target that by 2022 we should be down to 11 percent,” he added.
DOLE OIC-Assistant Secretary Dominique R. Tutay said the 66 establishments covered 4,735 workers.
She said this included 47 establishments covering 4,416 workers that implemented flexible work arrangements; and 19 firms with a little over 300 workers.
These establishments included hotel, restaurants and tourism-related sectors, and a few manufacturing firms. Tutay said many of the affected firms are located in four regions: Central Luzon; Western Visayas, which includes Boracay; Central Visayas, which includes Cebu; and Soccsksargen.
Tutay said there are also 734 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who have been displaced in Macau, sme of them terminated while others placed on unpaid leave.
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Governor Francisco Dakila Jr. said the BSP projects a decline of between 0.2 percentage points and 0.8 percentage points on remittance growth for the year.
This was due to temporary ban on deployment of workers to China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Dakila said this is based on a baseline number before COVID-19, when there was 3-percent remittance growth.
Dakila said mainland China accounted for just 0.1 percent of 2019 total remittances. “That’s why reduction in remittances is still quite small. Our previous experience has shown that remittances can be quite robust—there’s still a shifting going on from one country to another in response to any unforeseen shocks, as we have seen in the past,” he said.
In order to keep Filipinos, especially low-income families, from falling into poverty in the time of Covid-19, Dominguez said the Department of Health will provide health assistance.
Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said PhilHealth is offering a health package of around P80,000 per member who is infected with COVID-19.
Duque said there is a P14,000 worth isolation package per member; a P16,000 package if symptoms progress; and a P32,000 package if the virus progresses to severe
PhilHealth also covers testing costs at P6,000 cover per test. Each patient must be tested to determine if he/she is infected by the virus and must test negative twice before he/she is released.
Diseases are among the reasons for households falling into poverty. Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority said household-out-of-pocket payment reached P372.8 billion, or 54.5 percent of Current Health Expenditures in 2017.