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Good news after good news

These trade deals augur well in our goal of at least bringing the economy back to pre-pandemic days.



There’s no doubt about it. The Philippines is a beautiful country. And we’re not even the one saying it.

With its natural wonders and exciting spots to visit, it comes as no surprise that it was named the second most Instagrammable place in the world this year by a global travel website.

In a list released last week, Big 7 Travel described the Philippines as “home to incredible natural wonders like an underground river and tranquil rice terraces in addition to a vibrant culture and history spanning several millennia.” Nice to hear, nice to learn.

That’s Good News No. 1.

Expect the tourism industry to be boosted by this accolade. We badly need it at this time when we are trying to bounce back from the effects of the ongoing pandemic.

We have been on a slump ever since we initiated those lockdowns and restrictions on our mobility. It stymied the economy which before the pandemic was already on the up and up.

While we are trying to contain the deadly scourge, there are indications that we can go past this setback. Things can only look up from here.

One question that can be asked though: Is the worst over for the Philippine economy?

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez would like to think so. He says the country’s economic managers have seen signs of recovery from the gross domestic product (GDP) to unemployment rates.

Latest available data showed the economy posted a smaller contraction of 11.5 percent in the third quarter after declining by 16.9 percent in the second.

Consider it Good News No. 2.

The country’s unemployment rate also eased to 8.7 percent in October from 10 percent in July and 17.6 percent in April.

That’s Good News No. 3.

Exports, meanwhile, are back to positive territory, expanding by three percent in November last year. You bet, it’s Good News No. 4.

“We are still facing risk, but I would also say that the worst is over. 2020 was really the height of the lockdown and we saw the economy really dropping. But ever since, we have seen signs of recovery from GDP to unemployment rates,” Lopez said in an interview with CNBC Asia.

Like most nations affected by the virus, we have been opening the economy gradually and safely toward the latter part of last year. The country is also preparing for the arrival and rollout of the vaccines following deals made with suppliers.

There are still challenges like the emergence of a more virulent strain of the coronavirus that has been wreaking havoc in Europe, the United States and other parts of the world. Back here, our first case of the new variant has been detected but hopefully would not trigger another spike in cases that could set us back anew.

Despite the threat of B.1.1.7, the highly-transmissible strain, we are hoping that authorities would continue managing the virus than risking avoidance which led us to recession following the various lockdowns.

Our economic managers could very well be consoled by the $1.9 trillion Covid relief plan announced by incoming US President Joe Biden — who will be inaugurated today — a real positive development for countries brought to their knees by the pandemic.

Whatever it is that we say about America, it still is the world’s biggest economy. A recovery for the so-called Land of Milk and Honey could only mean a recovery for the world.

Also, a silver lining for the economy is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership signed by the Philippines with Southeast Asian countries as well as trade partners Australia, China, Japan, Korea and New Zealand last November.

Along with the possibility of joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership entered into by Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, these trade deals augur well in our goal of at least bringing the economy back to pre-pandemic days.

Let’s hear more of these good news. It’s probably what the doctor ordered for us strapped to this endless, uncomfortable routine of wearing masks and shields.