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Banks support expanded mobility for vaccinated people

THE bankers’ association said it supports measures that will allow greater mobility for fully vaccinated people to boost spending and help the economy rebound from the pandemic.

“The Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP) strongly supports efforts to grant greater mobility to fully vaccinated individuals,” BAP President Jose Arnulfo A. Veloso said in a statement Monday.

He said offering mobility incentives in Metro Manila and surrounding areas, where 50% of the population is fully inoculated, can spur economic activity.

“The mobility of fully vaccinated Filipinos will encourage spending on various goods and services including in tourism, hospitality, and transport industries that are among those hit the hardest by this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” added Mr. Veloso, who is also the president and CEO of the Philippine National Bank.

He said bringing back domestic consumption will aid in bringing about a sustained economic recovery.

The consumption-driven economy grew by 3.7% in the first half and needs to achieve at least a 4.3% expansion in the fourth quarter to meet the lower end of the government’s 4-5% growth target.

Around 17.7% of the population has been fully vaccinated as of Sept. 23, according to the Our World in Data website.

Since the economic rebound has yet to gain traction, ING Bank Senior Economist Nicholas Antonio T. Mapa warned that a premature relaxation of quarantine measures and policy support can also delay the recovery as this will make the country prone to “reinfection.”

“Just like a wound that has yet to completely heal, the Philippine economy remains stuck in low gear and is clearly in need of additional support. Giving in to the itch and quickly reversing these support measures will inevitably backfire on the recovery process and work to undermine the full healing of the economy,” he said in a note Monday.

Mr. Mapa said signs of recovery have emerged after second quarter gross domestic product growth came in at 11.8% but the Philippines is still a year and a half away from returning to its pre-pandemic growth trend.

He said monetary and fiscal support for the economy is still needed to sustain the recovery, after the central bank reported that both businesses and consumers remain pessimistic about the third quarter while bank lending is only starting to pick up.

“Patience and determination throughout the recovery and healing phase will be crucial as we avoid costly removal of support just when the economy needs it the most,” he added. — Beatrice M. Laforga