THE Asian Development Bank (ADB) said growth prospects for the Philippine economy could further improve if a “good level of community protection” against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is seen in the capital region by November.

ADB Country Director Kelly Bird said they are seeing greater upside risks on their April’s forecast of a 4.5% growth this year since the pace of the vaccine rollout has picked up with 250,000 doses administered per day.

“At that rate and if it continues to increase, we do expect to see a good level of community protection achieved by November of this year, particularly in NCR (National Capital Region). That’s helping us to improve the upside risks to the growth scenario this year,” he said in an online forum on Tuesday.

“We are very confident that with a lot of these reforms that have been implemented, the Philippines will return to its longer-term growth of over 6% by 2023,” he added.

The government aims to vaccinate 70 million adults by year’s end to achieve herd immunity, with a focus on the NCR where COVID-19 infections remain elevated.

The Health department reported 4,114 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the active cases to 49,613.

The government has administered 11.71 million doses of coronavirus vaccines from March 1 to July 4, of which 8.84 million were first doses. So far, 2.869 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated.

However, Mr. Bird cautioned that new COVID-19 variants and potential surge in new infections still pose a threat to the recovery.

The government set a 6-7% growth target for this year. The Philippine economy slumped by a record 9.6% in 2020.

Mr. Bird said the Philippines remains well-positioned as a good investment location with its massive infrastructure program expected to provide huge boost in the economy and increased spending on the healthcare system.

In that same forum, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Undersecretary Rosemarie G. Edillon highlighted the need for the government to focus on innovation to accelerate growth.

State economic managers projected the Philippine economy will expand by 7-9% in 2022 and 6-7% annually for the 2023-2024 period.

“The effective way to foster innovation is to create a level playing field and to promote healthy competition. Business strategies would actually tell us that we need to be open to technological advancements and it is these technological advancements that will pave the way to more innovations and a more efficient way of doing things,” Ms. Edillon said. — Beatrice M. Laforga