By Francis David T. Perez

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III advised local businesses to “aggressively innovate” and prepare for the shift to a digital-based economy to recover from the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

During the 29th Visayas Area Business Conference organized by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, he said that the government’s partnership with the business community will help drive the country’s recovery from the pandemic.

“The enterprises must be ready to more aggressively innovate, to shift more rapidly to take advantage of new digital technologies and to identify emerging business opportunities. These are not only moving into the ‘new normal.’ We should be purposefully moving toward a ‘new economy,’” Dominguez said.

The finance chief assured that the government has continued its push for the enactment of priority measures necessary to help the economy recover from the recession it entered in the second quarter.

“While we know that economic recovery is not going to be a sprint, we do have the fiscal stamina for running this marathon. It is to our own advantage to keep our deficit within manageable limits so we can continue to access financing at terms that are favorable to the Filipino people,” Dominguez said.

He mentioned that health system improvements were needed to bring back the “confidence of our people” in the new economy. 

“If we can prevent the need for lockdowns and keep the virus at bay, the people can work, shop and move around more freely as long as we all comply with the required health behavior,” the finance chief said.

Dominguez added that public health and the economy must be mutually given importance.

“Rebuilding the economy is a condition for ensuring public health. We cannot fight a pandemic with a weak economy; nor can we restore economic vigor without solving the public health crisis. The health of our people and the strength of our economy are mutually reinforcing,” he explained.

Increased hopes for red tape eradication

Norman Francisco, operations manager of Umac Forwarders Express Inc., said he hopes the digital-based “new economy” would eliminate red tape and expedite processes such as obtaining permits and clearances.

“I have two employees stationed at the port of Manila daily to manually apply for customs clearance and gate passes. These can easily be done online. I hope Dominguez does this first since the BoC (Bureau of Customs) is directly under his department,” he said.

Francisco also mentioned advantages such as cost-cutting, lesser risk of exposure to Covid-19 and possible elimination of redundant positions in businesses.

“Going digital is much easier for smaller size companies to implement compared to a bigger company primarily due to the cost involved. This will save me money by no longer having to print receipts and letterheads. Payroll will be more accurate since employees will be compelled to swipe/log-in and out for their work schedule,” he said.

During his fifth State of the Nation Address, President Rodrigo Duterte said it was high time to eradicate lengthy queues in government offices and implement a fully online system to fast-track transactions amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Duterte directed the Anti-Red Tape Authority, the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Budget and Management to make possible all government services to be done online.

“We need to adjust and adopt a paperless type of business and work performance…. It will enable us a bureaucracy to better transition into the new normal and cut and minimize red tape,” he said.