The Central Visayas Regional Development Council – Private Sector Representatives (RDC-PSRs) attended the 12th RDC-PSR National Convention 2021 on 28-29 April 2021. The event was hosted by RDC CARAGA and was held via Zoom videoconference. The theme of the event was “Private Sector Representatives’ Role in the Regions’ Recovery and Resiliency”.
The first day of the convention included presentations delivered by Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua, Department of Health (DOH) Director Napoleon L. Arevalo, Philippine APEC Study Center Network (PASCN) Director Francis Mark A. Quimba, Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) Deputy Executive Director for Research and Development Dr. Feliciano G. Calora, Jr., and Department of Finance (DOF) Asec. Paola Sherina A. Alvarez.
As Keynote Speaker of the event, Secretary Chua requested the PSRs to spread the good news that are happening in the country’s economy by sharing the Philippines’ solid fundamentals in addressing the economic impact of the pandemic. These include a strong economic growth of 6.6% average from 2016 to 2019, low and stable inflation at 3% average from 2016 to 2020, strong fiscal position with a highest revenue of 16.1% and lowest debt of 39.6% as shares of GDP in 2019, 4.5% shares of infrastructure program to GDP or Php 882 Billion in 2019, lowest pre-pandemic unemployment (5.3%) and underemployment (14.8%) rates, and lowest poverty incidence of 16.7% in 2018.
He informed the delegates that the prospects for 2021 are encouraging and will allow the country to recover to pre-pandemic levels in 2022. Economic growth in 2022 is estimated at 8 to 10, from 6.5 to 7.5 in 2021. Enablers of recovery include 1) re-opening of the economy to MGCQ or better, 2) timely implementation of the recovery packages such as the Bayanihan 2 extension, CREATE, FIST and GUIDE packages, and 3) timely implementation of the vaccine program. He also assured that the government is working towards a more equitable allocation of the national budget across regions.
DOH Dir. Arevalo presented the National COVID-19 Vaccination Plan. The plan’s operational objective is to utilize multiple strategies and various vaccination models to roll-out the vaccination as fast as possible. He emphasized the government’s “whole-of-society” approach in achieving herd immunity. Around 70 million Filipinos are eligible to avail the government’s vaccination in 2021 and 2022.
Dir. Quimba, who is also a Research Fellow at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), presented the country’s status in terms of achieving resiliency through digital transformation. Positive factors in the country’s digital economy include robust mobile phone market, rapidly growing smartphone ownership, the government’s Build, Build, Build and National Broadband Network, demographic advantage, and high GDP growth rate. The country however needs to improve in addressing cybersecurity issues and lack of public awareness, insufficient IT infrastructure, localized access divides, and slow average internet speed.
Dr. Calora presented recent innovations in the country’s agriculture sector, with emphasis in the development on genomics, nanotechnology applications and internet of things. Developments in genomics include coconut, somatic embryogenesis technology, abaca, rubber, coffee, cacao, native pig, native chicken, ducks, and aquatic/ marine resources.
DOF Asec. Alvarez shared recent developments in sustainable finance as part of the country’s efforts to achieve the goals of the Philippine Development Plan, 2017-2022, and AmBisyon Natin 2040. The Philippines’ first nationally determined contribution (NDC) represents the country’s goal of modernizing and pursuing low carbon and resilient development over the next 10 years in agriculture, water, industry, transportation and energy. She emphasized the DOF’s support to the urgent passage of a law regulating single-use plastics (SUP). The People’s Survival Fund (PSF) is an annual special fund established to finance adaptation programs and projects of local government units (LGUs). As of April 2021, six LGUs have approved projects under the PSF, one of which is the LGU of San Francisco in Camotes Island, Cebu.
The business meeting of the RDC-PSRs was held on the second day. Topics discussed include increasing the participation of PSRs in RTF and RIATF, increasing the number of PSRs in the RDC to one-thirds of the total number of members, opposition in the defunding of NTF-ELCAC, provision of vaccine to construction and conservation workers, setting of ceiling price of construction materials, work stoppage among export companies due to delayed booking of shipments, and existing ban of open pit mining methods.
PSR Evelyn Nacario-Castro provided the impression from the Visayas PSRs. She noted in the presentations that the country has what it takes to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. She emphasized on the role of the PSRs as link between the national government and the local communities. She shared three key points in recovering from the pandemic, namely 1) ensuring that no one is left behind, 2) acknowledging the importance of security among local communities, and 3) remembering the law of sowing and reaping, quoting a verse from Galatians 6 stating that “whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction, and whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
NEDA Usec. Mercedita Sombilla inspired the delegates with her closing remarks, stating that the pandemic gave rise to new ways of doing things and brought out the best in the Filipino culture of bayanihan. She stated that the government will ensure a balanced development across the country.
Attendees from RDC 7 include Ms. Evelyn Nacario-Castro, Mr. Virgilio Brigido G. Espeleta, Mr. Argeo J. Melisimo, Mr. Francis Bernard I. Batoy, Mr. Aurelio S. Salgados, Jr., Mr. Robert L. Go, Mr. Edward C. Du, Dr. Profetiza S. Lim, Mr. Rey Dennis B. Caballero, Mr. Arthur M. Chan, Ms. Evangeline R. Abejo and Mr. Jose P. Tomongha.