THE DEPARTMENT of Finance is seeing some signs of economic recovery, even as the virus continues to be a threat to the outlook.

Finance Undersecretary and Chief Economist Gil S. Beltran noted in an economic bulletin on the country’s first-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) data that GDP rose by 0.26% in January to March 2021 from the October to December 2020 period, signalling a slight improvement.

“Recovery, however, continues to be threatened by risks posed by the virus. This health issue should be effectively addressed, and it is encouraging that the much-needed vaccines have started arriving,” Mr. Beltran said in the statement.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said the government might need to spend another P75 billion until 2022 to fund its expanded vaccination program that will include booster shots for 85 million Filipinos and also cover teenagers and adults.

Based on data from the US-based Center for Strategic & International Studies, the Philippines has fully inoculated 517,113, only equivalent to 0.5% of its population.

This makes the country a laggard in the region, besting only Brunei (0.2%), Myanmar (0.1%), and Vietnam (0%) in terms of the ratio of vaccinated people to the population.

The government wants to vaccinate 70 million Filipinos by end-2021 to achieve herd immunity. However, at the current pace, the Philippines would only be able to vaccinate 75% of its population after 6.4 years.

GDP shrank by 4.5% on an annual basis in the first quarter. This marked the fifth consecutive quarter of the country in recession.

The government targets GDP growth of 6.5% to 7.5% this year following the record 9.6% contraction in 2020 due to the pandemic. It will review its macroeconomic assumptions next week.