By Joseph B.A. Marzan
Iloilo province may have lost more than P 10 billion since it was placed under community quarantine since March 15, 2020 to combat the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The province was first placed under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) via Executive Order (EO) No. 028-C issued by Governor Arthur Defensor Jr.
The GCQ was upgraded to the stricter Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) from March 20 to April 14 via EO No. 080, which was then extended to April 30 via EO No. 102 issued on April 8.
On April 30, the governor again extended the ECQ via EO No. 110 based on the recommendation of the National Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (NIATFMEID).
EO 110 also provided data gathered by the provincial government on the effect of the COVID-19 crisis on the province’s economy from March 15 to April 30.
Defensor said the economy was one of his major considerations in formulating the province’s policies under the ECQ.
TOURISM AND AGRICULTURE
The Provincial Tourism Office (PTO) estimated that Iloilo lost P1.1 billion tourism receipts – P294 million in March and P864 million in April.
According to the World Tourism Organization, tourism receipts represent the revenues earned by a destination country from inbound tourism. These receipts cover all tourism transactions resulting from expenditure made by visitors from abroad for lodging, food and drinks, fuel, transport in the country, entertainment, shopping, etc.
The PTO based the estimated loss on the projected 16,248 tourist arrivals in March and 47,278 tourist arrivals in April. The assumptions is that every tourist will spend P3,000 to P4,000.
On the other hand, the Local Economic Development and Investment Promotion (LEDIP) Center said that the business sector lost an estimated P4.8 billion of earnings as 65 percent of businesses in the province were closed due to the ECQ.
The Provincial Agricultural Office claimed that unsold fruits and vegetables and slower delivery of fisheries resulted in P103 million in losses (P81 million in unsold fruits and vegetables and P22 million in fisheries which were sold at a lower price).
The Provincial Planning and Development Office estimated that the transport sector has lost up to P104 million based on projected losses of buses (P44 million) and jeepneys (P59 million).
The LEDIP and the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) have yet to estimate income losses in the air and sea travel sectors.
Their data, however, indicated that 1,170 flights to and from domestic and international destinations were grounded in the past six weeks.
Sea travel passengers, according to the PPA, decreased from 400,000 in February to 200,000 in March.
The Public Employment Service Office (PESO) said around 300,000 workers were affected and lost P2.4 billion in projected income.
The PESO data is separate from the estimated income loss in the construction industry in, which the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Provincial Engineer’s Office reckoned at P117 million.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) remittances were cut by up to $300 million nationwide, with further drop of up to 3 percent between 2019 and 2020.
The Iloilo Federation for Information Technology (IFIT) calculated that 60 percent of the 32,000 Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) workers come from the province with an average of P20,000 monthly income.
According to the IFIT, with the BPO industry bleeding due to increases in operational expenditures, logistical requirements, and capital expenditures for the procurement of IT equipment for Work at Home Scheme, losses are estimated at a maximum of P2 billion in March and April alone.
Defensor admitted that he has difficulty in keeping the economy afloat while the province is under ECQ.
He said that he had tried to work out economic measures within the scope of the ECQ as set by the NIATFMEID.
“Of course, it’s really a challenge, how we can spur economic activity where in fact, it is the basic effect of a community quarantine. We have had to maximize the industries and sectors that can operate within the ECQ so we can alleviate these losses. Previously, we’ve prohibited the agriculture industry and we’ve seen how the economy of the province had slowed down because of it. The economic losses were not due to the lack of production or inaccessibility of supply sites, but the problem here was the purchasing capacity of the people because of many jobs that had stopped for the meantime. As much as possible, the jobs that were enabled to continue must continue and that is how, for the meantime, we can make sure that the economy can stay stable at this time,” he said.
The governor also confirmed that the province is preparing a recovery program once the ECQ is totally lifted.
“The province is preparing for a recovery program which we will gradually implement once the ECQ is over, and that is currently being planned by the Provincial Planning and Development Office. We must make some action to stimulate the economy after this quarantine, and maybe we can start during the quarantine,” he said.