President Rodrigo Roa Duterte skims through a document before meeting with Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Philippines Huang Xilian who paid a courtesy call on the President at the Malacañan Palace on March 11, 2020. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

The Philippines has been struggling to contain the Covid-19 pandemic and its lockdowns have caused its economy to take a nosedive, a World Bank economist said on Friday.

World Bank chief economist for East Asia and Pacific Aaditya Mattoo said the Philippine government’s Covid-19 response “has imposed a big cost on the economy without delivering a commensurate benefit in terms of containment of the disease.”

The Philippines has been under various levels of community quarantines since March 2020.

A year after, the government has yet to transition away from the lockdowns to a “more efficient containment strategy,” Mattoo said.

The World Bank, in its recent report, said the economy of the Philippines was likely to expand by 5.5 percent this year—a downgrade from its earlier projection of a 5.9-percent growth—and 6.3 percent in 2022.

Mattoo also raised the country’s slow vaccine rollout, Filipinos’ vaccine hesitancy and “heavily decentralized” healthcare system as challenges the Philippines had yet to overcome.

Palace: PH not under a ‘prolonged lockdown’

With its economy “open,” the Philippines cannot be classified as a country under a prolonged lockdown, Malacañang said on Friday.

“Hindi po ako naniniwala na nagpo-prolong lockdown nga po tayo, sa katunayan po bukas po ang ekonomiya maliban po doon sa kakaunting mga industriya,” Palace spokesman Harry Roque said in a Laging Handa briefing.

Roque said the government had been avoiding the implementation of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the most stringent lockdown classification, so more businesses could operate amid the pandemic.

“Kaya hindi na nga po natin in-impose ang kahit anong [modified ECQ] o ECQ maski mataas ang mga kaso dahil importante po na manatiling bukas ang ekonomiya nang hindi naman po magutom iyong ating mga kababayan,” he said.

The country has recorded more than 700,000 Covid-19 cases as of March 26. John Ezekiel J. Hirro