The “worst is over” for the Philippines as the gross domestic product gradually recovered from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III told American businessmen in a virtual forum hosted by the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. on Friday.Dominguez cited the gross domestic product contraction of 11.5 percent in the third quarter, smaller than the 16.9-percent decline in the second quarter. He said additional improvements were expected in the months ahead as the Duterte administration progressively reopened businesses and transportation to clear the way for a strong bounce back in 2021.He said with the Philippine economy “back in business despite the pandemic, we see many areas for cooperation between the US and the Philippines” in assorted opportunities for American investments such as in digital technology, agriculture, manufacturing and medical research.“As we gradually reopen the economy with health interventions, our GDP performed much better. We had a smaller GDP contraction of 11.5 percent in the third quarter from a decline of 16.9 percent in the second quarter of this year,” he said.“This [smaller GDP contraction] indicates that the Philippine economy is on the mend,” he said. “This is also a strong signal that the worst seems to be over for the country. The path is clearer to a strong bounce back in 2021,” he said.Attending the online gathering were Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez, Presidential Adviser on Flagship Programs and Projects Vivencio Dizon and American business leaders led by Charles Freeman, who is the senior vice president for Asia of the US Chamber of Commerce.“Next year, we expect the Philippine economy to post a strong rebound. We hope that the Philippines’ strong fundamentals, fiscal stamina and effective governance will continue to make us a promising investment destination and a growing market for US investors,” Dominguez said.He said additional improvements in the fourth quarter were expected. He said manufacturing is one key sector that the government would revitalize in the post-pandemic era.Dominguez said this is also a good time for US companies that are looking to diversify their supply chains to see the Philippines as a viable source of intermediate products and services.
He said that while some of the country’s closest neighbors grapple with ageing populations, “the Philippines has a very young workforce. We have invested a lot in preparing our youth for the competitive world that lies ahead. There is a great talent in our market ready to be unleashed”.“In particular, we have an extensive pool of highly skilled workers to assist in the development of the US manufacturing and innovative industries,” he said.Meanwhile, Dominguez said the next administration should continue the “robust pipeline” of infrastructure projects that started in the Duterte administration.Dominguez described as “stupid” the usual practice of starting from the scratch the infrastructure projects of every administrations in the past. “We are starting a new race every six years. That is bad for the Filipino people… We must remember that this is a relay… not a start of a new race,” Dominguez said.Presidential Adviser for Flagship Projects Vince Dizon said when the Duterte administration took over in 2016, there were practically “none” or very, very few projects in the pipeline that they could start immediately.“And we do not want this to happen as we transition from the Duterte administration to the next administration. We want the next administration to have a robust pipeline of projects it it can continue,” Dizon said.Dizon said before the end of the year, the government would announce the projects that it could finish and would be able to start, including the projects that would serve as a “very robust pipeline” for the next administration.Dizon said the infrastructure projects that would be prioritized by the government included transport, mobility and water supply projects.