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Economy seen to grow within target 

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Despite the looming threat of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), Malacañang on Tuesday said it is confident that the Philippines could still achieve its target of 4 percent to 5 percent economic growth by the end of 2021, according to a report by Philippine News Agency.

In August, the government slashed its economic growth target to 4 percent to 5 percent from the previous 6 percent to 7 percent to reflect stricter mobility restrictions declared to prevent the spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19.

“Opo, nagsalita na rin po ang NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority) at ang ating mga economic managers tungkol dyan. We are confident na mararating natin ang ating economic growth targets (Yes, the NEDA and our economic managers have released a statement. We are confident of hitting our economic growth targets),” acting Presidential Spokesperson, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, said during the Laging Handa public briefing.

So long as Covid-19 cases and the positivity rate continue to decline and a safe economic reopening is implemented, the country can still meet its economic growth target, Nograles said.

He renewed his call to the public to get vaccinated against Covid-19, saying it is the only way to ensure that life would return to normal.

“Panawagan natin sa lahat: kailangan magpabakuna po tayo. Mas maraming taong mabakunahan natin then mas maging kampanti ang lahat – ang negosyo, ang mga livelihoods, ang trabaho. Mas magiging bukas din ang ating ekonomiya, especially pag nakikita natin na mas marami sa ating mga kababayan ay bakunado (Our appeal to everyone is to get vaccinated. The more people are vaccinated, the more secure everyone will be – businesses, livelihoods, work. The economy will be more open, especially if they see that more of our people are vaccinated),” Nograles said.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua earlier expressed optimism in reaching the country’s 4 percent to 5 percent growth goal as Covid-19 cases decline, vaccinations pick up, and the economy gradually reopens.

The Duterte government is currently balancing between the management of Covid-19 and the safe reopening of the economy.

Not yet ready

Meanwhile, Nograles defended the decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to retain the Alert Level 2 status in Metro Manila and most areas in the country.

“Right now, hindi pa tayo handa na mag declare ng any Alert Level 1 sa ngayon (we’re not ready to declare Alert Level 1 yet),” he said.

He said the IATF-EID is finalizing the parameters to possibly deescalate Metro Manila to the lowest Alert Level 1 by assessing the average daily attack rate (ADAR) and health care utilization rate.

However, Nograles said local officials have to be ready to declare granular or localized lockdowns should there be a rise in Covid-19 cases in a particular area.

“Lahat ng mga LGUs (local government units), local chief executives lalo na mga mayors, mga governors, dapat nakahanda sila mag granular at localized lockdown kung kinakailangan. Reminder lamang, that’s part of Door No. 4 sa ating Four-Door strategy para mabantayan na hindi makapasok yung Omicron at iba pang mga variants of concern dito sa ating bansa (All LGUs, local chief executives, especially mayors and governors, should be ready to impose granular and localized lockdowns if necessary. Reminder that it’s part of Door No. 4 in our Four-Door strategy to prevent the Omicron variant and other variants of concern from entering the country),” he said.

The Four-Door Policy covers border control, active surveillance including test and trace, early isolation and treatment of all those who tested positive, and the vaccination program.

The Omicron variant, which was first detected in Botswana, Southern Africa, has been declared as a variant "of concern" by the World Health Organization.

Currently, the Philippines has not yet reported a case of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 but has imposed travel restrictions on at least 14 countries at high risk of infection.

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