With New Vigor
Many Filipinos have probably gone back from a long vacation by now. We all deserve the long break during the Lenten Season after another pandemic year that has taxed our strength and patience.
For a religious nation like the Philippines, the Holy Week is a time to reflect on our personal lives, recharge the body and spirit, and look forward to a fresh start.
The same is true with the economy and our small entrepreneurs. We have just assessed our activities and performances in the past year and the first three months of 2022. An entrepreneur or a businessman would wonder if he or she could have achieved more despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.
The long holiday gave us a reinvigorated spirit to pursue more and address our weaknesses, reinforce the weak spots—be it in sales or our target market—and perhaps look for an expansion to take advantage of or establish our competitive edge. An entrepreneur may have also missed out on assigning the better person for the job.
The Philippine economy on a larger scale faces the same tests as the small businessman or entrepreneur. It is about to regain its previous strength, but some mobility restrictions remain despite the low number of daily Covid-19 cases now. For one, provincial buses that transport passengers from Metro Manila to their home provinces and vice versa cannot operate more efficiently because of terminal loading issues.
But I remain upbeat that the government will soon resolve the few kinks in the economy. The Philippines is actually ready for the new normal. I can see the optimism of the corporate sector. Every company seems to be in a bullish mood to expand and fill in the demand lost during the pandemic.
I am also pleased to learn that our local airlines and the travel sector are bouncing back strongly after tourism took a plunge in the early months of the pandemic. Cebu Pacific is expecting to restore over 100 percent of its pre-pandemic domestic capacity this month on the easing of air travel restrictions. This airline noted a 200-percent rise in its average daily flights for both domestic and international combined—from about 100 flights a day in 2020 to about 300 this year.
The Qatar Airways Group is hiring more staff from the Philippines to support global operations amid the recovery of the travel industry. The airline plans to recruit a significant number of cabin, lounge and contact center staff from the Philippines.
Flag carrier Philippine Airlines is on the mend. It posted a comprehensive income of P56.49 billion in 2021, a turnaround from a huge loss of P73 billion in 2020. PAL’s fast recovery is a remarkable feat after filing for bankruptcy in 2020.
Another budget airline, AirAsia Philippines, has increased its flight frequency by 30 percent to accommodate the surge in bookings during the Holy Week and the rest of the dry season.
The revival of the airline sector will shortly translate into more Filipino jobs. Resorts and hotels in several travel destinations in the countryside are reopening. Host communities of these air travelers will likewise benefit from the influx of local and foreign tourists. Restaurants, souvenir shops, spas and boat operators will enjoy this tourism boom.
The rest of the corporate sector is in the same upbeat mood judging from what I read in the business sections of our daily newspapers.
Converge ICT Solutions Inc., for one, recently raised P10 billion from the sale of retail bonds to fund the expansion of its broadband network nationwide. Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. is budgeting P3 billion to P4 billion this year to expand and upgrade its retail network after shutting down its Batangas refinery in 2020.
My own Villar Group, in addition, is pursuing the trading of real estate investment trusts. Vista REIT Inc., the commercial real estate investment trust unit of my Vista Land & Lifescapes Inc., has just filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a planned P9.18-billion initial public offering by the middle of the year.
There are other corporates that have sold or are about to sell bonds, or conduct their own initial public offerings in the local capital market to finance their expansion projects. These corporate offerings are a reflection of the private sector’s positive mood on the economy. Private companies are pursing their expansion plans with vigor and trust on the economy’s unmistakable recovery.