Economic team: Virus threat to have only ‘short-term’ impact on tourism
The economy should be able to weather the impact of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) and proceed to capture the growth trajectory set by the government, the administration’s economic team said.
Infrastructure buildup alongside a more aggressive tourism push “will rev up the economy this year,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III told reporters after the Economic Development Cluster meeting Thursday.
Economic managers are targeting a higher gross domestic product (GDP) growth goal of 6.5-7.5 percent this year. The economy grew just 5.9 percent in 2019, its slowest pace in eight years, due to delays in the budget processing.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said the threat of nCoV, which has so far affected more than 8,000 individuals around the world and forced lockdowns in several cities in China, would have a “short-term effect” on tourism here.
He said there were already “a lot of measures being done to minimize” infection among Filipinos.
The Philippines confirmed its first case also on Thursday, a 38-year-old woman who arrived last Jan. 21 from Wuhan, China, supposedly the ground zero of the coronavirus outbreak. Several hours after, President Duterte finally agreed to impose a travel ban on travelers from this Chinese megacity.
Pernia, who heads the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), said the spread of the virus “shouldn’t take long.”
China is the Philippines’ second-biggest source of tourists.
For Dominguez, the Chinese government “acted very swiftly—they have been very proactive in the control of this disease.”
He acknowledged the spread of the virus has been deterring many travel plans.
He, for instance, was supposed to go to Wuhan to lead a Philippine Economic Briefing there. The roadshow has been postponed indefinitely.
The silver lining, he said, was “maybe domestic airlines will promote internal travel” more than outbound trips.
Pernia said the country would be saving on foreign exchange if Filipinos don’t travel overseas. —BEN O. DE VERA
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