Ladies and gentlemen, magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat!

We offer a warm welcome to the stakeholders from the business sector present here today at the Pre-Summit Dialogue for Business. Your valuable inputs will help us prepare for the Job Summit on 1 May by developing a business and labor sector agenda to speed up employment recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 health crisis.

Under a whole-of-society approach, we’ve been engaging the business sector and the workforce in the fight against the pandemic. In particular, we’ve convened a series of consultations with businesses with the assistance of development partners like the World Bank (WB), International Labour Organization (ILO), and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). We wanted to hear from you how you are dealing with the challenges brought about by COVID-19, how we can better prepare for the reopening of the economy, and how we can better support you towards recovery.

We would like to assure you that in response to the challenges you are facing, government initiatives are ready to help businesses—especially Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs)—recover. For example, we have the COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) program, a microfinancing facility that provides a viable financing alternative to pandemic-affected enterprises. As of 22 April, this program has released a total of P2.92B to 23,722 pandemic-affected MSMEs.

We also have programs and partnership with private sector providers to provide digital and online solutions to MSMEs, like the CTRL+BIZ Reboot Now series of webinars. Similarly, we have Tech Tools for MSMEs, a web page that provides information on the different digital tools and resources to help them cope with the challenges of the community quarantine.

As of this March, we have 1,176 Negosyo Centers nationwide ready to inform and help MSMEs through our government assistance programs. Likewise, our 2,833 Shared Service Facilities (SSFs) can provide MSMEs with machinery, accessories, and other items under a shared system.

Presently, we are intensifying ease of doing business initiatives with the establishment of the Central Business Portal (CBP), a one-stop shop for all business-related information and application. This portal aims to promote effective service delivery and transparency in the government by streamlining registration of business, renewal of permits, and other activities through online transactions. This is of course, aligned with the directives of our President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during his last SONA in 2020.

To push for the faster implementation of the vaccine rollout, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) approved last 15 April the Priority Group A4 for the National COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment Plan. This group includes the following: commuter and transport, including logistics; public and private wet and dry market vendors, groceries, and delivery services; manufacturing for food, beverage, medical and pharmaceutical products; and hotels and accommodation establishments.  All of these, in particular, referring to those typically facing customers, in other words, high exposure to customers.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021 approved by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte last 26 February authorizes private companies to procure vaccines. This can be done in cooperation with the Department of Health (DOH) and the National Task Force Against COVID-19 through a tripartite agreement.

These are just a few of our initiatives to help your business affected by the pandemic. But addressing the many and complex challenges wrought by COVID-19 requires continued dialogue and cooperation. That’s why we’ve been holding these discussions with you so that we can work together to build back better the businesses and livelihood of our people.

It is worth highlighting that while business operations continue to face challenges under the pandemic, we are already seeing some signs of recovery. The barometer for the country’s manufacturing activities, the Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (or PMI), rebounded this January and February.

Meanwhile, the Board of Investments (BOI) was able to approve 311 investment projects valued at P1.017T across various sectors last year, which would generate an additional 55,000 jobs in the country. While the total approved investments are 11% lower than the level in 2019, it is still the 2nd highest in BOI’s 53-year history considering a pandemic year. Additionally, the country’s foreign direct investment (FDI) net inflows grew by 41.5% to reach USD 961M last January, from USD 679M in the same period of the previous year.

To sustain the gains made by our economy, we’ve been implementing the “Revitalizing Businesses, Investments, Livelihoods, and Domestic Demand” (or REBUILD) strategy since last year. With REBUILD, we aim to continue building consumer confidence, revitalizing domestic demand, and empowering manufacturing firms in the country to seize that demand. And noting the adverse impact of the pandemic to the labor force, we crafted, together with our partners—Secretary Bello and Secretary Lapeña, as well as our development partners—the National Employment Recovery Strategy (or NERS) 2021-2022 to harmonize the employment, livelihood, and training programs of the government. This, in turn, would contribute to the recovery of our economy.

We acknowledge that there are other challenges that the government still needs to address. We hope that our continued collaboration with workers and the business sector can help us to leverage on the previous gains our economy has made towards a more sustainable post-pandemic recovery. Let us recover and rise as one. Together we will overcome and together we will win.

Maraming salamat po at mabuhay tayo lahat!

Date of Release: 27 April 2021