COMPANIES in various industries are keeping a cautious outlook on recovery this year, after Malacañang decided not to loosen lockdown restrictions.

Rosemarie B. Ong, president of the Philippine Retailers Association and chief operating officer of Wilcon Depot, Inc., said she still expects business growth this year as customers divert their travel budget to home renovations.

“(Growth is) going to be soft but still very helpful because we are seeing some developments,” she said at an online event held by the Management Association of the Philippines on Wednesday.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte earlier this week rejected a proposal to shift the entire country to the most relaxed quarantine level. He said the country would remain under a general lockdown until people get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“In the tourism industry, we have already learned to live with restrictions up to a certain point, and we hope the government of course will improve it soon,” Hotel and Restaurant Association of the Philippines President Eugene T. Yap said at the same forum.

He is hoping that the government would lift stricter restrictions later if it will not do so by March.

“However, we will not wait for the announcement,” Mr. Yap said. “We have known that the announcement for the leveling of the quarantine will be out of our league. We have no control.”

Hotels and restaurants have been renovating in preparation for the return of tourists, he said.

The tourism industry is hoping the government will loosen restrictions soon. The industry’s revenue declined by 83% to P81.4 billion, according to the Tourism department.

“We hope that we’ll push into a less restrictive mode of quarantine… that’s why we are hoping for the vaccination,” Mr. Yap said.

Ms. Ong said she hopes for a unified version of the lockdown restrictions, which vary by province.

“What we are seeing now is different versions. If you open (your business) all over the Philippines, your other businesses would be doing well because it’s not as restrictive as the others,” said Ms. Ong, whose company operates a chain of home improvement stores around the country.

“For retail, we just need to adapt in the sense that if you’re brick and mortar, you have to have that blended (online and physical) approach.”

The outsourcing industry cut its revenue growth projections late last year to 3.2-5.5% compound annual growth rate from 3.5-7.5%, according to the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP).

“In the industry, we have adjusted already to the current situation. Whether (the lockdown) will be adjusted to a more relaxed one or not. I think our industry will continue to work under these circumstances and our growth projections were based on this,” IBPAP Chairman and Accenture Philippines Country Manager Manolito T. Tayag said.

“Even if the quarantine restrictions are not going to be lifted or will not go to a more relaxed one, we think that our growth projections and direction for the industry will stay the same.”

Economic managers and business groups had sought the further easing of lockdown restrictions to fast-track the country’s recovery.

However, concerns remain over the possible uptick in coronavirus cases as new variants emerge. The Health department reported 1,557 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, bringing the total to 566,420. — Jenina P. Ibañez