April 25, 2020 statement of Dr. Henry Lim Bon Liong, president of the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII). Dr. Lim is also chairman of the Filipino Chinese Community Charity Foundation (FCCCF) comprised of 11 major Filipino Chinese civic and cultural groups led by FFCCCII, which has raised funds of P265 million from March 12, 2020 to April 14, 2020 for donations of medical supplies to front-liners and food relief assistance to marginalized people affected by the Covid-19 crisis all over the Philippines.
The Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII) calls on the national government to implement emergency relief efforts of multiple highly-targeted policies to mitigate the adverse economic effects of locking down a large part of the country’s population. We need to act boldly and vigorously to stave off economic recession and possible massive unemployment in the Philippines due to the global Covid-19 pandemic crisis.
The difficult yet necessary Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) has caused massive disruption to the economic life of the Philippines. We should unite and seek to prevent the worst economic crisis since World War II. We believe that unless the government pro-actively steps in, we might even exceed the 1984 negative 8% contraction in the gross domestic product (GDP).
Former National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Dr. Cielito Habito estimates that the Philippine GDP contraction this year could be from negative 6% to as much as negative 14%！We—the Filipino Chinese community, government and all sectors—must unite and work hard to prevent this.
We at the FFCCCII do not want to see children and families starving in poverty as what had happened in 1984. We have faith in the political will and sincerety of our government leaders. We believe the national government has the resources and the unquantifiable power of moral suasion to jumpstart the Philippine economy towards recovery, thus preventing the dire consequences of negative economic growth such as social dislocations and human sufferings.
We estimate that due to the world economic slump, the overseas Filipino workers (OFW) remittances will go down by 20% or about $ 6 billion dollars this year, as no continent is spared from this global pandemic. Already, OFWs and seafarers are coming back home in droves.
The important and once fast-growing industry of tourism will be hard hit. Tourist arrivals will drop precipitously this year, with most hotels, resorts and airlines having closed down the past weeks. We can expect more billions of dollars of lost tourism income for the country this year.
FFCCCII appeals to the government to take the initiative as the primordial catalyst to give strong stimulus for Philippine economic recovery, with some of these proposals:
1. Sustain and fast-track “Build, Build, Build” new infrastructure development projects nationwide. Exert political will to unclog any bureaucratic or right-of-way delays.
2. Resolutely upgrade, modernize and lower costs for telecommunications and information technology (IT) nationwide to help businesses and professionals to increase efficiency, boost productivity and grow e-commerce.
3. Grant wage subsidies for businesses to maintain job continuity for millions of people.
4. Provide financial grants, logistical and technical assistance to farmers, fishermen and rural cooperatives to alleviate countryside woes and to boost national food security.
5. Provide emergency aid to freelancers, micro traders and informal sector workers such as artists and entertainers by granting cash subsidies and low-interest credit.
6. Strengthen economics-focused diplomacy. Galvanize the country’s independent foreign policy to gain more trade deals, technological support, foreign direct investments, low-interest soft loans and aid from all the world’s big powers which are now the Philippines’ allies USA, China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and others.
7. Further lower interest rates and lessen bank reserve requirements in order to free up more liquidity for lending to SMEs, since there seems to be no imminent danger of high inflation due to record-low global oil prices nowadays.
8. Instruct banks to suspend collection of interest and principal payments on loans by struggling micro, small, and medium-sized firms, at least by a few months.
9. We propose that government gives loan guarantees, so that banks would be able to increase lending support for businesses, most especially for the micro, small and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs).
10. Provide grants to support activities which improve business resilience and efficiency.
11. Extend compensation for paid sick leaves for Covid-19 patients.
12. Increase government investments in public health services, most especially in research and prevention measures for infectious diseases or epidemics. Approve incentives for private sector investments in and modernization of health care.
13. Take advantage of the low world oil prices to seek out and negotiate long-term, affordable price oil and natural gas purchase agreements with major energy exporters like Russia, Iran, Iraq, other Middle East countries.
14. Invest in non-fossil oil, alternative energy sources such as geothermal, solar, wind and even nuclear power projects as part of a strategic plan to lessen the Philippine economy’s vulnerability and over-dependence on imported oil.
15. As part of the government stimulus program for resilient economic recovery, invest more in upgrading education, especially in non-degree courses like German-style vocational and technical courses. We must invest more in the Philippines’ most valuable natural resource, the talents and skills of the people.
In this period of unprecedented global economic crisis, we the FFCCCII appeal to the national government to take the lead in bolstering business confidence and the national morale with a set of progressive and courageous policies needed to resuscitate the severely hard-hit, now dormant and even contracting economy. Let us unite, work hard and jumpstart Philippine economic recovery!