Champions and Accomplishments Despite the Pandemic
I would like to congratulate newly promoted Air Force Staff, Sergeant Hidilyn Diaz, for giving the Philippines our first gold medal in the Olympics for nearly a century. Her determination and strength to lift 97 kilograms in the snatch and a record 127 kg in clean and jerk inspired a grateful nation, as we try to rise above the challenges brought about by the health crisis.
The entire Philippine contingent in the Tokyo Olympics deserves recognition for performing above expectations, as our participation this year in the quadrennial event gave us at least two medals. As I was writing this column, featherweight Nesthy Petecio secured at least a bronze and was fighting in the semifinals.
I hope these momentous triumphs in the global sporting event will continue to inspire the Filipino people in surmounting the challenges of the global pandemic. We have a golden opportunity to build our path to the future or the new global economy. And like what our champions have accomplished, we should train, prepare and build our capability to become world-class.
Despite the threat of the pandemic, the government put in place the necessary infrastructure that will propel our economy once the crisis is over. These infrastructure projects will guide our way to a stronger Philippines. In his State of the Nation Address on July 26, 2021, President Duterte lauded the Department of Public Works and Highways under the leadership of Secretary Mark Villar for its accomplishment from 2016 to 2020. In this period, the DPWH implemented three times more projects than any administration had done in the last five decades.
The agency accomplished infrastructure projects worth P2.5 trillion in the past five years, up 209 percent from P820.4 billion between 2011 and 2015. The projects resulted in the creation of 6.6 million jobs, mostly in construction, during the period. Under President Duterte’s watch, infrastructure investments climbed to an average of 5 percent of the gross domestic product, higher than those in any of the past four administrations.
On the economic front, the Duterte administration accomplished reforms that lifted the burden of paying taxes from the poor. For example, the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law reduced the personal income tax on wage earners, while the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act cut the corporate income tax rate from 30 percent to 20 percent for micro, small and medium enterprises, and to 25 percent for other businesses.
The TRAIN law and “sin” Tax reforms also raised the taxes on tobacco and alcohol three times, which raised the budget for universal health care in the country. Such tax reforms would not be possible without the strong leadership of President Duterte.
The Philippines was one of the fastest-growing economies and on its way to become an upper-middle country by 2020 until the Covid-19 pandemic stalled our momentum. After locking down our borders at the onset of the pandemic, the government gradually reopened the economy to allow our workers to return to work and resume our infrastructure development.
As a result, we saw the completion of major infrastructure projects such as the North Luzon Expressway Harbor Link, the Skyway Stage 3, several sections of the Cavite-Laguna Expressway, a section of Central Luzon Link Expressway, the Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge, Kalayaan Bridge, among other projects that will facilitate faster and easier movement of people and products.
Our other champions during this pandemic are the overseas Filipino workers who defied the global health crisis to toil in other countries and send money to their families in the country. OFW remittances increased 6.3 percent in the first five months of 2021 to $12.28 billion from $11.554 billion a year ago, infusing substantial liquidity into our financial system that supports the growth of various sectors, such as banking, real estate, health care, retail, transportation, travel and tourism, education, automotive and e-commerce.
I believe that with the inspiration provided by our athletes, the government’s infrastructure rollout, steady remittances from OFWs and aggressive vaccination program, we can sustain our gains through the pandemic and emerge as a stronger nation ready to take on the golden opportunity of the new global economy.
There are clear signals that the economy is on a rebound. These include the 7-percent increase in energy sales volume of electricity retailer Manila Electric Co. in the first half of 2021 to 270 gigawatt-hours. Power demand from the commercial segment surged 54 percent in May and 29 percent in June from the same months last year, as public confidence grew with the gradual increase in the number of people vaccinated. Industrial sales volume also rose 23 percent on higher demand from the electronics and construction sectors.
We must be cautious along the way, though, by avoiding missteps that could shackle the economy or worsen the health crisis. I continue to believe that a general lockdown would do more harm than good to the nation. We can do our part in the economic recovery by complying with effective health protocols, such as wearing of face masks and face shields outdoors, social distancing in work and market places, and proper hygiene at home to protect our people from the more virulent Delta variant.
So far, over 6 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, representing 10.5 percent of our target to achieve herd immunity. Another 11 million Filipinos received their first doses of the six vaccine brands approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
We as a nation will survive this pandemic. We have kept our economic fundamentals intact despite many challenges, and with the many accomplishments of this administration, especially on infrastructure, we have built the foundation to face the new global economic order.