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Chapter | Transport & Infrastructure from The Report: Philippines 2021

Transport operations and infrastructure development in the Philippines were acutely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic as lockdowns stalled construction projects, movement restrictions prohibited travel even within communities, and a ban on international arrivals in March limited aviation services for the rest of 2020. As the country’s response to Covid-19 began to take shape in the first half of 2020, it soon became clear that transport and infrastructure spending would be protected as a key driver of economic continuity and recovery. In an April outline of the socio-economic response, Carlos Dominguez, the secretary of finance, stated that the government would press on with President Rodrigo Duterte’s flagship Build, Build, Build infrastructure programme to generate economic activity and create employment. As early as May 2020 the Department of Transportation announced that, despite ongoing lockdowns in Luzon, it would resume work on 13 big-ticket projects – albeit with certain limitations. This chapter contains interviews with Tony Fernandes, CEO, AirAsia Group; and Rubén Camba, South-east Asia Director, Acciona.

Chapter | Tourism from The Report: Philippines 2021

Tourism played a central role in the Philippines’ economic development in the years leading to 2020, and an increasing emphasis on sustainability underscores the sector’s importance for the coming years. While the popular island of Boracay has long drawn tourists, local authorities continue work to diversify destinations through the creation of tourism enterprise zones. These endeavours, as well as those aimed at widening source markets, have laid the groundwork for an expanded yet more tailored offering. Although the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic heavily impacted tourism, Philippine policymakers and stakeholders are looking to adapt the sector’s offering and prioritise domestic tourism to support the national recovery. Enhanced health and safety measures have been implemented to align hotels, tourism sites and other services with the demands of the new normal. Meanwhile, a shift towards digitalisation and the use of technology to upskill the workforce are readying the sector for the future. This chapter contains an interview with Aileen Clemente, Chairman and President, Rajah Travel.

Chapter | Industry & Agri-business from The Report: Philippines 2021

Industry has made a sustained contribution to the Philippines’ economy in recent years, accounting for roughly 30% of GDP between 2017 and 2019, with sector growth driven predominately by manufacturing. Expansion was constrained in 2020 as Covid-19 response measures impeded manufacturing activity and reduced the global demand for industrial products. Meanwhile, agriculture comprised 9-10% of GDP from 2017-19 and is a crucial source of employment. Increased emphasis has been placed on transforming traditional farming into a dynamic agri-business sector – which will be key to the country’s economic rebound. After a difficult 2020 it will be necessary to address ongoing challenges – including high production and electricity costs, inadequate infrastructure and limited basic industries – to enable long-term manufacturing growth. Supporting businesses in the adoption of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or the application of new digital and automated technologies to enhance production processes and service delivery, will further boost resilience. This chapter contains interviews with Ramon M Lopez, Secretary of Trade and Industry; William Dar, Secretary of Agriculture; and Christopher Po, Executive Chairman, Century Pacific Food.

Chapter | Energy from The Report: Philippines 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic hit the Philippines’ consumption-driven economy hard, with forecasts from the IMF suggesting that real GDP could contract by as much as 9% in 2020. Strict lockdowns took a heavy toll on the energy sector in the form of a steep drop in demand for both electricity and fuel, yet local power providers took steps to ease the financial impact on customers by lowering rates and extending payment windows. In a positive sign for the sector’s longer-term development, interest was sustained in oil and gas exploration activities and midstream infrastructure investment during the pandemic. Beyond the health crisis, the renewable energy and natural gas segments present standout opportunities for the coming years as the Philippines looks to meet rising energy demand and alleviate pressure on the national grid.

Chapter | Financial Services from The Report: Philippines 2021

The Philippines’ financial services sector entered the Covid-19 pandemic on a solid footing, thanks to decades of regulatory reform to address the vulnerabilities exposed by the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. Strong capital buffers, high levels of provisioning and near-universal public health cover insulated the country from many of the impacts that other markets continue to wrestle with. While geographic spread and socio-economic disparities remain structural barriers, increasingly tech-focused growth strategies are improving both bottom lines and financial inclusion among the population in measurable ways. The country has experienced a boom in digital banking as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, with several digital-only banks announcing plans to enter the market, legacy banks rapidly upgrading their online offerings and the central bank eyeing ambitious digital banking targets. This chapter contains interviews with Benjamin E Diokno, Governor, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas; Kelvin Ang, CEO, AIA Philam Life; and Sanjiv Vohra, President and CEO, Security Bank.

Chapter | Economy from The Report: Philippines 2021

The Philippines is one of the fastest-growing economies of the past decade, averaging 6.4% growth per year over 2010-19. Indeed, an expanding and youthful population, combined with reforms and an ambitious infrastructure programme, have made it an enticing investment destination. Nevertheless, as is often the case in emerging markets, challenges regarding inequality – particularly the distribution of wealth and services – remain barriers to growth. The Covid-19 pandemic tested the country’s resilience in 2020, impacting major sectors. The Philippine government launched a four-pillar socio-economic strategy to mitigate the impact of the pandemic and aid the national recovery effort. The framework aims to provide emergency support for vulnerable groups and individuals; expand medical resources to fight Covid-19 and ensure the safety of health workers; implement fiscal and monetary initiatives to keep the economy afloat; and launch an economic recovery plan to create jobs and sustain growth. This chapter contains interviews with Carlos Dominguez, Secretary of Finance; and Shinichi Kitaoka, President, Japan International Cooperation Agency.

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