IT is heartwarming to see the Philippine economy now going strong after the debilitating effects of the pandemic that saw businesses close down, unemployment rise, and household income decline. In fact, traffic has again slowed down and new buzzwords have cropped up, like “revenge spending,” that shine a spotlight on the extent of the economic recovery.
Everywhere, foot traffic to fast-food outlets, fine-dining places and malls have shot up, which nudged the gross domestic product to grow above seven percent. That growth has impressed International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva who cited the exceptional performance of the economy even with the Ukraine conflict that led to high energy prices and a spike in inflation.
There is optimism all around about the prospects for growth that lead to a brighter Christmas this year, especially with the rise in employment that saw the unemployment rate hitting its lowest in 17 years at 4.2 percent as per reports from the Philippine Statistics Authority. According to the PSA, the number of employed Filipinos in November rose to 49.71 million, with 2 million in the increase attributed to the administration of President Marcos.
And even the peso has strengthened against the US dollar, from near the P60 level to below P54 as the economic activities came back in full force after being whipsawed as a result of Covid-19. And with the contribution from the country’s overseas Filipino workers as well as Business Process Outsourcing, the economic growth is seen eclipsing its pre-pandemic levels.
For National Economic and Development Authority Director-General Arsenio Balisacan, “the strong labor market signifies the steady recovery of our economy.” New industries have been sprouting all over the archipelago that guarantee the rise in the ranks of the employed, and the recent news emanating from the Palace shows much promise.
Thus, it gladdens the heart to know that ride-hailing company Grab Holdings CEO and co-founder Anthony Tan has promised to create half-a-million jobs during his one-on-one with President Marcos last week. For context, that big number of new jobs is a fourth of the 2 million that the President said during the huddle, which was created since he assumed office.
So far, the only dark cloud in the horizon is the rise in the prices of agricultural products such as onions, which went up to a dizzying height of P700 a kilo in some places that resulted in several memes in the social media showing onion bulbs as replacement for the diamond that grace rings. There were even memes of photos of women sporting onion earrings to show the bulb’s newfound popularity.
It is high time for the government to ensure that the economy chugs along fine and for this, it should not attempt to come up with new rules that may result in a “glitch” in the economic order. A case in point is the status of Grab itself where a Constitutional conflict could arise from out of the provisions of the Amended Foreign Service Act or RA 11659 that seeks to entice foreign investors.
RA 11659 sought to reinterpret the investment activity to get around the provisions of the 1987 Constitution and in the case of Grab, a question that arises is whether it is a public utility or not within the ambit of the exclusion of Transport Network Vehicle Services (TNVS) along with telecommunication companies and airlines in the Amended Foreign Service Act.
There have been challenges made against the said law before the Supreme Court given the fact that a TNVS like Grab should be treated as common carrier like a public utility vehicle since once online, they make their services available to the public and are available for booking, hence they must be regarded as common carriers without exception.
Somehow, there is a need to tweak a law that does not run counter to the Constitution. This brings to mind the passage of the Rice Tariffication Law that went through several public hearings before being crafted that led to inclusion of measures that saw to it that the farmers benefit from its passage.
The said law brought about the reduction in the price of rice, raised taxes for the benefit of farmers via “ayudas” and use of modern agricultural implements as well as breaking up the rice cartel.