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Public-Private Collaboration Key to Addressing COVID-19 Economic Woes

By Franz de la Fuente

Greater and closer collaboration between the government and the private sector on the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis can mitigate its impact on the Philippine economy as well as ease the people’s anxiety.

Aboitiz Group President and Chief Executive Officer Sabin M. Aboitiz (SMA) agrees that the COVID-19 crisis created a lot of uncertainty but he believes the Philippine economy can be shielded from further disruptions if the government and private sector focus on two areas of collaboration: keeping the economy moving and supporting the government’s COVID-19 information campaign.

There is no question of the coronavirus’ impact on the economy. It is during these times when the government and private sector must work closer together – really together to effectively mitigate the crisis.

In a briefing to financial analysts last March 11, SMA noted the implementation of both government- and private-sector-led infrastructure projects can counter the economic impact posed by the COVID-19 crisis.

He noted Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III’s declaration that the current administration’s Build, Build, Build program will go full blast “is the right thing to do.”

One sure way to keep the economy stimulated is the immediate implementation of the government’s infrastructure program – especially the projects of national significance. It generates jobs, it triggers economic activity, and there is definitely no question about the long-term benefits. We, in Aboitiz have always been ready to invest time and money to build the infrastructure we Filipinos deserve.

Another way the government can further bolster the economy is by adopting policies that give preference to goods produced and services provided by Philippine manufacturers and companies, he said.

One policy he cited as an example was Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade’s instruction to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and the Manila International Airport Authority to defer the collection of take-off, landing and parking fees of local airlines.

We fully support the government’s actions (on) landing fees to help local airlines and extending financial support to the local tourism industry – two sectors badly hit by the coronavirus.

He suggested other actions the government can consider:

  • Source 100% of the raw materials, such as cement and steel, for its infrastructure projects from Philippine manufacturers;
  • Hire more locals for projects in the provinces;
  • Speedy processing of all types of permits for various projects so they can start quickly;
  • Protect Philippine manufacturers from the entry of cheap, poor quality imports.

The Philippine Disaster Relief Foundation, of which the Aboitiz Group is a member, can also augment the Department of Health’s COVID-19 monitoring and information campaign. COVID-19 “is undoubtedly causing so much uncertainty and generating fear and panic – some of which is speculative to a certain degree,” Aboitiz said.

He said the Aboitiz Group constantly reminds its team members about digital channels for business continuity, proper hygiene measures, travel and social distancing guidelines, and workplace sanitation, and are given regular updates about COVID-19.

“Our utmost concern is the health and safety of our team members,” adding the travel, quarantine, and hygiene measures have been adopted based on the guidelines set by the DOH and the World Health Organization.