The private sector is urging the government to streamline policies on mobility amid the pandemic. — PHILIPPINE STAR/MICHAEL VARCAS

THE private sector is asking the government for a six-month plan detailing how the Philippines can bounce back from the devastating impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

“To effectively combat this health crisis, the government needs to provide a clear and comprehensive 6-month plan that thoroughly describes the concrete plan, steps, and actions that government will take that will help the country survive and bounce back,” Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) National Capital Region Area Vice-President Delia B. Jimenez said during the Sulong Pilipinas online event on Tuesday.

“We are all in this together. With the government and the rest of the country, we too will fight to achieve a quick and solid economic recovery,” she added.

At the top of their list is a request to improve mobility despite the various quarantine protocols being implemented around the country. They asked the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to synchronize their policies and coordinate with local governments.

The business group also called on the Trade and Transportation departments to come up with measures to boost freight and logistics capacity, particularly to help the manufacturing sector.

The private sector is also asking for assistance for the services sector, particularly the struggling tourism industry. This includes a request for policies and a roadmap to directly assist the industry as the economy gradually opens.

They also asked for a roadmap on developing nationwide digital infrastructure, which they said should be included in the budget for 2021.

Another recommendation was for the Economic Development Cluster to assist private firms that opt to retain employees instead of implementing layoffs.

To create jobs, the private sector asked for partnerships with government institutions like the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to train, upskill, and certify returning Overseas Filipino Workers.

The private sector asked that Congress fast-track the passage of the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE), which would immediately cut corporate income tax to 25%.

Another recommendation was for the establishment of an online  business registration system that will allow interconnected processing among agencies by 2021.

The private sector also said processes for infrastructure development should be streamlined by next year to encourage more investments, and that agriculture farm-to-market access be improved through value chain interventions, digitalization, and added technologies by the end of the year.

In his response, Finance Assistant Secretary Antonio G. Lambino II said that the government is accepting the recommendations, which they will share with the relevant government agencies for consideration.

“Businesses have the sectoral expertise, organizational capacity and foresight to create progressive solutions in various areas of development,” he said.

The Philippine economy fell into its first recession in 29 years when gross domestic product shrank by 16.5% in the second quarter when nearly all economic activity was shut down during the lockdown.

Meanwhile, the government is pinning its recovery hopes on its “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program.

“Metro Manila stands to benefit from major infrastructure projects in the ‘Build, Build, Build’ program. For too long, the capital has suffered from one of the worst traffic conditions in the world, affecting the daily lives of commuters and the cost of doing business,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said in his speech at the Sulong Pilipinas forum Tuesday.

“The government’s massive infrastructure spending in Metro Manila will relieve these pain points while generating employment and business opportunities across sectors as well as fostering interregional connectivity,” he added.

Based on a study launched September 2019, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said Metro Manila ranked the most congested city in developing Asia.

The ADB attributed the urban congestion to lack of efficient and affordable public transportation.

The government allotted a P1.1-trillion budget for infrastructure next year, up 41% from the reduced P785.5-billion budget this year after the government redirected some funds to its pandemic response. The accelerated infrastructure program was also part of the recovery program of the government as it generates jobs and has a huge multiplier effect.

Mr. Dominguez identified several key infrastructure projects that will ease the congestion in the capital, including the 36-kilometer Metro Manila Subway and the Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 project. — Jenina P. Ibañez and Beatrice M. Laforga