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Salceda says higher-than-expected GDP growth “a sign of strong PH fundamentals;” House econ recovery chief pushes for mass testing to keep recovery momentum

January 27th, 2022

House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd district) said that the higher-than-expected GDP figures for the fourth quarter and the full year of 2021 are signs that “the country’s economic fundamentals, bolstered by a strongly reformist government, are enduring.”

“These are positive signs for our 2022 outlook. It is clear that we caught up in the last quarter due to a more open economy. We should do whatever is necessary to ensure that we no longer need lockdowns,” Salceda said.

Preliminary data by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed the country’s GDP accelerated by 7.7% in the fourth quarter, a reversal of the 8.3% contraction in the fourth quarter of 2020. The figure was also higher than the revised 6.9% in the third quarter last year. The figure also lifted full-year growth to 5.6%, rebounding from record 9.6% contraction in 2020.

The full-year figure was also higher than the economic managers’ estimate of 5-5.5%.

“During the last quarter, industry grew the fastest among the major sectors, at 9.5% year-on-year. Private consumption also grew by 7.5%. People consumed more goods as they were able to get out of their houses. As a result, industry also had to make more goods, employing more people and benefiting their small business suppliers,” Salceda said.

“By that measure, it is clear: when the economy is open, it can recover,” Salceda added.

Mass testing as anti-lockdown measure

Salceda said that the government should still pursue mass COVID-19 testing as its most important anti-lockdown strategy.

“People have to quarantine because they get infected. They can get infected even when they are vaccinated. So, the most important distinction remains between the positives, who can infect others, and those who are not. Vaccination is a good strategy to prevent excess hospitalizations. But to minimize transmission, we really have to test people,” Salceda said.

Salceda adds that he attributes the “dramatic decline in NCR cases” to pre-surge levels to the capacity of local government units to finance their own testing kits, which have been distributed en masse to NCR residents.

“Cities like Makati are able to distribute free RT-PCR tests to anyone who needs it in the city. That is very commendable, but rural and regional LGUs are unable to match that kind of financial firepower. We still need a national mass testing program,” Salceda said.

“As a result, we never had to do an NCR-wide lockdown during the surge, and by most measures, they are even ready to return to pre-surge conditions,” Salceda added.

Salceda adds that the United States, one of the first countries to implement a mass vaccination program, “still had to resort to free mass testing recently to contain their surge in cases.”

“The US is still doing mass testing, even when vaccination rates are high in most urban states. We still need mass testing if we don’t want any further lockdowns.”

“If we want to keep the economy open for everyone who isn’t infected, we have to identify those who are infected, so we can heal and help them, while the rest of us can work and go out,” Salceda said. #

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