The Department of Finance said over the weekend it expects a sustained recovery in trade and economic activities this year, following the move by Congress to amend the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, Foreign Investment Act and the Public Service Act.
“The recently approved amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, along with other economic liberalization initiatives such as the amendments to the Foreign Investment Act and the Public Service Act will support the continued recovery of trade and economic activity in general,” the DOF said in an economic bulletin.
Congress passed the amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act and the Foreign Investments Act. Early this month, it also ratified the bicameral conference committee report on a bill amending the Public Service Act, which would now allow 100-percent foreign ownership in telecommunications, airlines and railways.
“As the country continues to grapple with the risks posed by the COVID-19 virus and its variants, the country needs to continue to be vigilant and be ready to respond with the appropriate measures lest the recovery momentum be lost,” the DOF said.
It said the sustained vaccination drive for Filipinos and a calibrated reopening of the economy would be key to helping the Philippines preserve the gains in containing the virus.
Total external merchandise trade in December reached $17.8 billion, up 25.4 percent from a year ago, which the DOF said was an indication of a “sustained economic recovery.”
Imports jumped 38.3 percent in December to $11.5 billion, while exports improved 7.1 percent to $6.3 billion.
Total merchandise in 2021 went up by 24.1 percent year-on-year to $192.4 billion, and also exceeded the pre-pandemic 2019 figure by 5.4 percent.
Exports reached $74.6 billion in 2021, up by 5.2 percent from the 2019 level, while the imports of $117.8 billion were 5.5 percent larger than the 2019 level.
The Philippine economy grew by 7.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2021, higher than the median outlook of 6.5 percent by 28 analysts polled by various news outlets. For three straight quarters, actual figures outperformed the median outlook.
“The narrow range of outlook dropped to as low as 3.9 percentage points from 7.5 percentage points in the third quarter and 11.7 percentage points in the second quarter. This shows that the level of uncertainties has simmered down. But despite the lower level of uncertainties, many analysts continued to understate their assessment of growth performance,” the DOF said.
It said the easing of restrictions accompanied by the lowering of alert levels in many areas and the better management of COVID-19 risks through more directed, granular lockdowns allowed the economy to outperform.
“The arrival of much needed vaccines and the efficient administration thereof also helped in the safe and gradual reopening of the economy, thus bringing back investor confidence,” it said.
“Still, the country needs to stay alert and not let its guard down. The emergence of the Omicron virus during the last week of 2021 indicates that the pandemic is still around and a quick change in alert levels is necessary to avoid its deleterious impact,” the department said.