"When the big industries start kicking in, the rest of the ecosystem will follow quickly."
After over five months of lockdown, the government has announced that we have no choice, and I would agree, but to gradually open up the economy and we must all learn to live with the Wuhan virus until a vaccine is available for mass inoculation. Much hype, mostly from the President and his Russian counterpart, has been broadcast about the fast progress of a Russian vaccine still undergoing trials. But according to WHO tracking, there are more vaccine developers in advanced stages with more conservative timelines.
When full lockdown restrictions started in March, the most essential necessities that came to mind, aside from food and medicine, were electricity, water, mobile, and broadband services. Being consumers, we are the first to feel the fallout of every disaster that strikes, and we continue to cope with this multi-dimensional crisis.
For a change, here are more positive thoughts on the top of my mind.
For the fourth straight month, Meralco recently announced another power rate cut this August. Compared to last year’s rate, this is significantly lower. Cited were less power plant outages that from experience, raises spot market prices that Meralco and other distribution utilities will be forced to purchase to ensure uninterrupted services. The dip in power demand in lockdown areas was also a factor that averted a looming power shortage during the summer months because of overdue building of power plants which by the way are still delayed. Something that the DOE should continue to focus on to meet a resurgence in demand as our economy recovers.
Also, allowing Meralco’s meter readers to go about their rounds during lockdowns instead of that problematic estimated bill policy of ERC solves the main cause of the bill shock confusion. The installment scheme, lenient no-disconnection policy, and one-on-one resolution of complaints, is the best approach for each paying customer.
Next are the ongoing waves of support and cooperation from so many individuals, and private companies. This impressive mobilization and cross-industry, cross sectoral cooperation has been crucial in averting what could have been a scary breakdown in peace and order if the millions of displaced families who suddenly lost their means of livelihood were not given immediate relief during the first lockdown months when government response was expectedly stuck in bureaucratic delays.
Among the most notable are: Project Ugnayan, Tulong Kapatid, Kaagapay, Frontline Stays, Project Pag-Asa, eSakay, and what I would consider with most strategic urgency is the test, trace, treat mission of TASK FORCE T3, heavily supported by the Asian Development Bank, Ayala Group’s AC Health, Metro Pacific (MPIC) Hospital Group, Unilab, the Philippine National Red Cross, the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation and other big business groups. From a few labs the project has produced more than a hundred and counting that has so far peaked at 37,000 test a day and will hopefully soon hit 50,000 with enough personnel and test kits.
Interventions extend to all fronts in the war against the pandemic with business groups mobilizing resources and manpower where their expertise are most useful particularly in quickly ramping up the capacities of our health care system to treat the still rising number of COVID 19 cases.
As of this writing, 48 percent of the 1,700 intensive care unit beds allocated for COVID 19 patients and 12,600 beds in isolation facilities are already occupied, while 31 percent of about 2,200 mechanical ventilators are now in use. The speed and efficiency of our testing, tracing, and adequacy of COVID 19 treatment centers, and how as individuals practice anti-virus behavior, will determine how aggressive we can be in restarting economic activities.
Infections are still spreading in our most productive economic regions where continuing lockdowns has plunged our economy into recession and unemployment spiking to a record high of 45 percent or an estimated 27.3 million Filipinos displaced by this crisis, based on last month’s survey results of the Social Weather Stations.
When it comes to creating jobs and driving the economy, it is the private sector that, with or without help from the government, will be our economic front liners. This is a fact not just in government statistics but it is also what four out five Filipinos believe, agreeing that they believe that private sector investments in infrastructure development and delivery of public services are helping to alleviate poverty by creating jobs and livelihood opportunities (Pulse Asia, September 2019).
Re-accelerating economic momentum will not be possible without a stable and conducive regulatory environment that motivates the mobilization of big investments in private ventures, infrastructure development and delivery of public services. All our capital resources, our human resources, and our mineral resources must be harnessed and maximized to their full potential. When the big industries start kicking in, the rest of the ecosystem will follow quickly.