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Pasig leads NCR on path to recovery

Aian Guanzon


Have you seen your friends selling one item or another on Facebook? Online selling has now become a fixture given the longest lockdown imposed on any country in the world, and to generate income sources for core or supplemental funds to survive the crisis, many Filipinos have shifted to online businesses. And it is just one of the signs of the peeking recovery stage for communities in Pasig. Purchase of raw materials begins to increase and so does online selling and reselling of goods - perfect way to stir the economy. Outputs become inputs to another set of products, and services become more personalized which adds up to more convenience to the consumers and higher profit margin to sellers or producers.

Although the impact of this pandemic is expected to last for years, Pasiguenos, wouldn’t waste a second to take a step and recover the soonest they can. The best thing is, that the local government unit (LGU) is mostly supportive of the efforts people are making to move forward.

In one of his live videos on Facebook, Mayor Vico Sotto reminded Pasiguenos of the "Bagong Negosyo'' loan under TAPAT (Tulong at Pampuhunang Ayuda sa Taga-Pasig) Small Loans program tailor fit to those who have feasible business plans and just need money for capital investment. The P10K-loanable amount is available to applicants who can comply with the LGU's requirements. "Balik Negosyo", also part of the TAPAT program, is lined up for those who need supplemental funds for their existing businesses. Business owners can use the proceeds for multiple and various purposes, including business expansion, product switch, and Covid-19 prevention measures.

Moreover, to showcase additional support for their constituents, the local government beefs up its manpower, despite many of its segments having skeletal workforce. A memo issued by Pasig LGU human resources identified two categories of alternative work arrangements. Offices tagged under category 1 are allowed to activate 30% of its employees at any given time to start operating while observing necessary physical contact limitations. Category 2 on the other hand, observes switching on and off of employee work every 15 days, which promotes self-quarantine while empowering the workforce to be productive in the provided period. The mayor added that it is in alignment with the Department of Health guidelines in managing Covid-19. This also minimizes contact amongst local government employees and workers, which consequently minimizes the spread of the contagion. With this, many transactions can be done faster in local government offices, including issuance of business permits and clearances.

Aside from the enterprises taking a leap to thrive amidst this crisis, there are other indicators that tell us that we are entering the early stage of recovery.

Macroeconomics

Philippine peso has continued to grow stronger in recent days, in fact it reached a new three-year record high last Tuesday, August 18, 2020, at 48.625 per US dollar. Last year on the same date, peso was at 52.295 per US dollar. A stronger peso means a lot when it comes to managing our foreign debts. A peso appreciation decreases the amount needed to buy foreign exchange to pay interest and maturing obligations. According to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the movement of the peso moving forward will remain market‐driven. Allowing market forces to determine the level of the peso has the following benefits: a flexible peso is consistent with the BSP’s inflation targeting framework; and a flexible peso acts as an automatic stabilizer to restore macroeconomic balance for a small open economy like the Philippines.

BusinessWorld reports that peso was also supported by positive market sentiment after better-than-expected remittance data. Cash remittances coursed through banks increased 7.7% to $2.465 billion in June - fastest in five months and snapping a three-month contraction due to the pandemic.

Local food industry

One thing to look forward to as a sign of recovery is the reopening of establishments in the metro. Restaurants, which is one of the business segments heavily affected by the community quarantine measures in government's response to Covid-19, started their attempts to offer their products and services as manifested by the increasing number of open (and re-opened) food establishments in Pasig, including Silantro Fil-Mex in Kapitolyo, Sibyullee in an Ayala Mall, FAB Restaurant, Ace International Buffet, Locavore, Cucina, Wildflour Cafe + Bakery, and a lot more, as checked via online platforms like tripadvisor, zomato, and booky.

Private educational institutions in the city

Although severely hit, private schools have managed to gradually strengthen their position, which is another sign of recovery. In a report from Manila Bulletin, there are 1,277 private schools that have started their operations before the supposed August 24 school opening. Region 4-A (Calabarzon) has the biggest number of schools that have started operations with 402, followed by the National Capital Region (NCR) with 243, and Region 3 (Central Luzon) with 127. And although re-opening of public schools has been moved to October, many private schools are still pushing through with their re-opening at a time earlier than public schools’.

In a post on social media Sotto shared two action items with help from Congressman Roman Romulo, Vice Mayor Iyo Bernardo and their entire Sanggunian. First is the waiving of all regulatory fees for private schools until face-to-face classes are allowed. Second is the extension of scholarship funds to 3,000 indigent private school students. "We know private schools are having a difficult time too, and some are in danger of closing. Many of their students can't afford tuition anymore. This puts our public school system in danger of overcrowding,” Sotto stated.

Positive outlook

Many expect the positive trend to extend despite the recent short MECQ reimplementation in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, and all the macroeconomic hits the country has been receiving due to Covid-19 crisis. But nothing is tougher than Pasiguenos’ trust and resilience. Jeric Cornejo, co-founder of a business consulting firm in Pasig, cited reopening of businesses as a major indicator of recovery in the city.

“Our clients, which are mainly businesses in Pasig, have started re-availing our services, which puts us in a better place now than in March and April,” Cornejo said in an interview. Their sales dropped by 70% in the beginning of the community quarantine, and they were left with less than ten active clients from March to May. Numbers started picking up in recent months and their sales climbed back up to 65% of its pre-Covid-19 state.

The economy isn’t going anywhere without our participation, hence, each and everyone’s support for both local and national industries is more critical now more than ever. The indications of the improving local economy that we’re seeing now are testament to what we can do together and to how much we can influence essential market components. Purchasing from enterprises, big or small, especially from those grasping at straws, reaches extra miles when it comes to stirring our local business segment. The liberty we enjoy now as community quarantine measures ease, shall be utilized in productive ways and with conscious efforts to uphold health and wellness endeavors at all times, for us to keep our recovery at its current pace if not better.

With 24 PEZA-registered IT buildings, 95 cooperatives, and 257 banks registered to operate in Pasig, combined with all the facilities and new efforts coming from the LGU, the message is clear - the city is ready to support its residents. Thus, everyone is expected to take that critical first step and help themselves and consequently help the economy.

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