CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga – The year 2020 is no doubt the most challenging in modern times due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic which brought the daily grind to a halt and caused many changes to the lives of most people.
Central Luzon was not spared from the devastating impact of the pandemic.
The implementation of the quarantine measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 caused adverse effects to regional economic activities.
Many businesses have been forced to reduce operations or shut down that resulted in the loss of jobs of many residents.
Companies in the services industry, a major source of growth to many economies, were among the hardest hit in the pandemic.
Leonila Baluyut, assistant regional director of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), said that 2,346 businesses in the region closed shop during the quarantine period.
Baluyut said those affected by the pandemic include restaurants, catering businesses and other food establishments as well as manufacturers, producers, and processors, recreational and amusement places, among others.
Agustin Mendoza, regional director of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), however, said that despite the health crisis, the regional average inflation rate of 2.9 percent as of September 2020 remained within government range.
Likewise, Mendoza said the prices of essential goods in the region as of October 2020 remained stable and settled within the acceptable range.
In terms of employment, he said the rate went down from 94 percent in July 2019 to 74.2 percent in April 2020 primarily due to disruptions caused by Covid-19.
However, he said the employment rate increased to 89.7 percent in July 2020, an indication that the economy in the region is slowly recovering after being disrupted by the pandemic.
The agriculture sector in Central Luzon also experienced a slowdown this year following the effect of typhoons the past months.
Based on the report of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Typhoon Ulysses destroyed some PHP1.3 billion worth of rice, corn and other high-value crops in the region.
Typhoons Quinta and Rolly likewise caused millions worth of damage to agriculture in the region.
Due to the huge impact of the typhoons, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has declared the island of Luzon under a state of calamity.
Given the scale and impact of the pandemic and typhoons, coordinated actions are being implemented by concerned government agencies to help the MSMEs, farmers, fisherfolk and workers and other marginalized residents in the region.
The DTI has provided livelihood packages to some 1,648 potential and existing MSMEs from the region’s seven provinces.
The initiative is under the agency's Pangkabuhayan sa Pagbangon at Ginhawa (PPG) and the Livelihood Seeding Program-Negosyo sa Barangay (LSP-NSB) and funded under the Bayanihan to Heal Act As One Act.
DTI-3 Regional Director Judith P. Angeles said the agency pressed on to distribute the livelihood kits to beneficiaries in the region to help them start or restart their business in their respective areas.
The DA likewise distributed various interventions to enable farmers and fishermen to recover from the pandemic and from the ravages left by series of typhoons.
The region has received some PHP281.5 million worth of assistance through the DA’s banner programs on rice, corn, and high-value crops, food and cash aid, quick response fund, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources emergency and livelihood loans from the Agricultural Credit Policy Council, and insurance payments from the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC).
Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)-Central Luzon also provided emergency employment assistance under its program Tulong Pangkabuhayan sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) that provides 10 to 30 days of employment to displaced, underemployed, and seasonal workers.
Aside from TUPAD, the DOLE also provided aid to formal sector workers through Covid Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2).
As of Dec. 18, DOLE Regional Office 3 has already released some PHP598 million to 119,602 formal sector workers in the region under CAMP and PHP488.61 million to 87,002 workers under TUPAD Bayanihan 2.
Economic outlook for 2021
The NEDA is confident that 2021 would be a good year for the region’s economy due to the continuous implementation of massive infrastructure projects.
The big ticket projects in the region under the Duterte administration’s "Build Build Build" program are seen to help reverse the effect of the pandemic.
Mendoza said these projects include the new passenger terminal building at the Clark International Airport, Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 7, Central Luzon Link Expressway Phase I and II, and the Philippine National Rail North 1 and 2 project from Tutuban to Malolos City, Bulacan and then to Clark in Pampanga.
He said that once the Clark International Airport new passenger terminal is operational, the airport’s passenger volume will be tripled from the current 4.2 million to 12.2 million.
“Once the Build, Build, Build projects are completed, we expect additional jobs and investors. These infrastructure projects will give multiplier effect that could help stimulate the economy of Central Luzon,” he added. (PNA)