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NEDA pushes for Bicol recovery program

By Bobby Q. Labalan

SORSOGON CITY --- To cushion the impact of the pandemic, the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA)- Bicol had advanced the Regional Recovery Program (RRP) for COVID-19 which spelled out the “immediate socioeconomic development response and support interventions to address the pandemic and help in the recovery” of the region.

This was contained in the report of the NEDA- Bicol entitled “Economic Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Bicol Region” which was released late last year as the agency looked into the effects of the plague on various sectors of the region.

The RRP consisted of two phases composed of the post-ECQ phase which calls for “short-term interventions to cushion the impact of the pandemic, restore the Bicol economy from the recessionary shocks due to domestic and global lockdowns and to jumpstart the economy” and the phase 2 “that will transition from the recovery to resiliency phase and provide the medium to long term interventions to strengthen socio-economic activities in the medium term and increase resiliency in the long term”.

To address the dire situation brought about by the pandemic, the study recommended the adoption of a medium-term development plan for 2023-2028 with 8-point agenda whose over-all goal is to “reinvigorate the job creation and poverty reduction by steering the economy back to its high-growth path into an inclusive and resilient society”.

The 8-point agenda includes “1) protecting the purchasing power of families through food security and reduced transport, energy and logistics costs, 2)reducing vulnerability and mitigating scarring from the pandemic through better healthcare, social protection and learning opportunities, 3) ensuring macroeconomic fundamentals, 4) creating more jobs through investments, infrastructure and energy security, 5) creating quality jobs through increased employability, research development and innovation and digital economy,6) creating green jobs through the green and blue economy and livable and sustainable communities, 7) ensuring a level playing field and 8) upholding public order and safety, peace and security.

In a communication sent to this publication, NEDA-Bicol Regional Director Agnes Tolentino said that the report was a result of the study on the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic based on the various data provided by relevant government agencies.

The study revealed that “about 194,300 Bicolanos were pushed into or back into poverty in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic despite the reported 4.3 percent economic growth of the region on the same year.

The figures mean that about “30 in every 100 Bicolanos were considered poor in 2021” as 37,200 families slid to poverty.

Of the six Bicol provinces, Camarines Sur logged the highest poverty incidence both among population and among families at 38.7 percent and 29.8 percent, respectively while Albay recorded the lowest incidences in both categories at 20.4 percent and 15.4 percent respectively.

Aside from the number of individuals who either slid back to or were flung to poverty, the report also stated that, as of April 2020, some 139,321 individuals lost their jobs as 61,522 businesses closed shop as they complied with the health protocols imposed by the government.

The figure of those who lost their jobs in 2020 was directly proportional to the recorded unemployment for that year which jumped to 9.6 percent from 5.3 percent in 2019, though the figure inched back up in 2021 at 8.8 percent, the report stated quoting from the Labor Force Participation Survey conducted by the Philippine Statics Authority (PSA).

The Bicol unemployment figure rose sharply in the second quarter of 2020 as it peaked at 15.7 percent, which is equivalent to 344,000 individuals, and went down to 9.1 percent on the third quarter and lowered further in the last quarter at 8.2 percent before it shot back up at 11.3 in the first quarter of 2021.

Meanwhile, some 10,850 business establishments in the region either closed shop temporarily or permanently following the imposition of the government protocols which restricted movements of the people.

Based on the 2021 Updating the List of Establishments released by the PSA, of the 75,415 businesses registered in 2019, 8,761 shuttered permanently while 2,089 closed shop temporarily. The permanent closures caused 30,083 job losses while temporary closure resulted to 8,132 job losses.

Of the various economic sectors, the services sector was one of the worst hit which included the tourism industry.

As per the data provided by the Department of Tourism-Bicol, there was a 74.4 percent decrease in tourism arrivals in the region in 2020 compared to the arrivals in 2019.

Based on record, there were 3,123,389 local tourists and 401,000 foreign tourists who visited the region in 2019 which drastically dropped to 893,586 locals and 64,889 foreign the following year which was the peak of the pandemic. The decrease translated to P7.2 billion income losses for tourism industry, the DOT added.

Still on closures, the Department of Education-Bicol had reported that 25 schools had permanently ceased operations since 2021. Fourteen of these schools closed down in school year 2021-2022 and eleven in 2022-2023. The agency did not provide the causes for the institutions closure.


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