• Melo Acuna

COVID-19 impacts on trade

PH trade drops to US$11.44 billion due to COVID-19 and lockdown

MANILA – Philippine trade declined in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying restrictions in production supply chains as well as the lackluster global trade flow.

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported today that the Philippines’ total merchandise trade dropped to US$11.44 billion, the lowest level for the past two years.

In a statement, the National Economic and Development Authority said the trade performance is 25.7 percent lower than the US$15.40 billion recorded in the same month in the previous year. Exports and imports registered declines of 24.0 percent and 26.2 percent, respectively.

“Merchandise trade may recover in 2021, but this will depend on how fast we can contain the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate its economic impact through government policies to support affected industries and workers,” Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendric Chua said.

A key to the improvement of the country’s trade performance is the utilization of digital technology and innovative approaches to continue operation and secure new markets. He added firms will have to put in place alternative business processes that will become the new standards for engaging with clients, buyers, and suppliers.

Secretary Chua said the export industry needs to be more responsive to the changes in consumer spending and redesign their product lines. They have to consider the needs and preferences of those working from home such as in terms of garments, personal care, health equipment, and household tools.

He projects additional interest in advanced electronics and software for artificial intelligence, plastic products that serve as barrier for store fronts and other protective equipment.

Policies that would expedite the sector’s recovery with the health of the population in mind will be critical to the country’s upturn.

Secretary Chua said they are working with Congress to craft an economic recovery program in consonance with the needs of affected industries, the small and medium enterprises which were forced to scale back or abruptly close operations due to the pandemic.

According to the statement, the program will include highly targeted tax incentives that are time-bound, transparent, and performance-based to help us attrade the right types of investments and help firms recover.

The newly-appointed cabinet official said support measures through wage subsidies and guaranteed loans have been considered for critically-affected export and import industries including the supply chain. Accordingly, these support can help increase focus on research and development of new products, recalibration of production process, and development of innovative products, among others. (Melo M. Acuña)

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendric Chua. (NEDA File Photo)

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