Expect jobs that were shed during the COVID-19 pandemic to resume with mass vaccination in full swing and once three economic liberalization measures pushed by President Duterte’s economic managers are in place, the Department of Finance (DOF) said on Wednesday.

“The administration of vaccines will help the country live with the virus. As always, the country needs to stay alert and not let its guard down as the virus continues to mutate,” the DOF’s chief economist Gil Beltran said in an economic bulletin.

The government’s mass vaccination program was recently expanded to include children in a bid to further reopen more productive sectors of the economy, including in-person classes.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said last Tuesday that resuming in-person schooling was estimated to add P12 billion more per week to economic activities when services around schools such as transport, dorms, food stalls and school materials also resume their operations.

Besides achieving herd immunity against COVID-19, Beltran said last year’s passage of the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act, plus the amendments pushed by the economic team in the public service, foreign investments and retail trade laws “will help bring in more employers and generate more employment.”

Under the CREATE Law, the President can grant hefty tax and other incentives to entice large foreign investments, upon the recommendation of the interagency Fiscal Incentives Review Board.

“The recent signing into law of the amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act is a welcome development toward faster economic recovery and, ultimately, better employment opportunities,” Beltran said.

The economic team had pushed to liberalize the three antiquated laws to open the economy to more foreign capital in lieu of amending the restrictions enshrined in the 1987 Constitution. Charter change will take longer and has been controversial despite recent attempts to amend only its economic provisions—one of the most restrictive in the world—which, in turn, made the Philippines a laggard in attracting foreign direct investment in Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The economic team had argued that foreigners’ bigger participation in local industries would not only further promote domestic competition but also create more jobs.

The amended retail trade liberalization law was already enacted last year, while the liberalized versions of the foreign investments and public service laws were “expected to be signed by the President shortly,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III told American businessmen last week.

“The amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, in particular, lowered the minimum paid-up capital requirement for foreign corporations from $2.5 million to about $500,000. Foreign retailers that want to open more than one physical store must now invest a lower minimum investment of $200,000 per store, compared to the previous requirement of $830,000 per store,” Dominguez said during an economic briefing.

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