How much will the country suffer in quarantine and how will this affect the population?

Expert answer – Marc Kenneth Marquez:

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed down the surging Philippine economy, the worst economic downturn in the last 30 years. While all sectors have been negatively affected, amongst the worst-hit include tourism and entertainment, manufacturing, construction, and transportation.
Since the dawn of the local outbreak and the lockdowns implemented to curb the spread of the virus, several business establishments have ceased operations, hence causing mass layoffs and furloughs. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the government’s statistical authority, the number of unemployed Filipinos in April after series of lockdowns reached 7.3 million, significantly lower than 10 million that the University of the Philippines (UP) revealed in a recent study.

Metro Manila and other key cities were placed on the strictest form of lockdown for at least 10 weeks starting mid-March before the transition to more relaxed quarantine protocols. Given this, Oxford Economics estimated that the foregone output due to the lockdown measures is equivalent to 5.8% of the gross domestic product (GDP) while its direct impact on tourism in particular is about 12.6%.
While the government has been trying to provide stimulus packages to those badly hit by the pandemic or the poorest of the poor, the country’s domestic and external debt has ballooned to PHP8.6 trillion, with the recent loan amounting to PHP55 billion from the World Bank.

Expert answer – Sheila Mae Gasatan:

During the first 45-day ECQ, the country has already lost an estimated PHP 1.1 trillion. But according to PIDS (Philippine Institute for Development Studies), the Philippine economy may suffer up to PHP 2.5 trillion in losses due to COVID-19 in the future. This is just an estimated figure but this would surely exhaust the Philippines’ monetary vault in no time.
However, for a normal Filipino citizen like I am who greatly relies on corporate jobs to make ends meet, this projected calculation would also mean a way lesser income potential as businesses are cutting down their overhead costs.

Bills, on the other hand, remain the same as before but the cash inflow has drastically declined even when the quarantine protocols have been partially lifted in some areas. And this is currently causing piled up debts for many Filipinos.
If this pandemic further gets way out of hand, we can expect to see more retrenched workers and an increased number of companies filing for bankruptcy in the future.


How much will the epidemic and the measures taken to spread it affect the welfare of the people of the Philippines?

Expert answer – Marc Kenneth Marquez:

Given the drastic effects of the pandemic on the operations of various business establishments and on the income of local workers, the economic recovery since the transition has been gradual and seen to take more years than expected.
Equally, there are still industries that remain nonoperational while others have started adjusting to the demanding ‘new normal.’ The adjustments after the lifting of the lockdowns however have caused further delays in the recovery from losses that both businesses and workers must face.
With the government running out of funds for further economic recovery programs and the recent priorities such as the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and the Tax Compliance for Online Transactions, more and more Filipinos are becoming skeptical and pessimistic about the ’new normal’ that awaits them.

The shrinking GDP and the erasure of at least two months’ worth of income after the imposition of lockdowns have resulted in an increase of poverty rate by 3.3 percent as estimated by the World Bank.
In 2018, the country’s poverty rate stood at 16.7 percent and such an increase over the span of at least two months is expected to revert once the economy recovers in the next two years. It can also be remembered that the current administration once targeted to slash the rate to 11 percent by 2022, but such could now be impossible to achieve after the pandemic.

Expert answer – Sheila Mae Gasatan:

I personally believe that this pandemic served as a litmus paper to test the Philippine sectors’ governance and efficacy. It’s not just how prepared the authorities are but rather how they responded by giving concrete guidelines to prevent the further spread of the virus while at the same time preserving the welfare of the public.
These measures, however, do not only concern the Philippine government. It also concerns the private sectors like banking and energy providers as their services are directly felt by the citizens. Both the public and private sectors should therefore go hand-in-hand to make the situation easier for the Filipinos.

What credit services do you trust, and can you recommend them to all citizens of the Philippines?

Expert answer – Marc Kenneth Marquez:

Loans offered by the government agencies are so far the most reliable and trustworthy, but private loan providers also offer competitive interest rates and payment terms.
I see nothing wrong with availing cash loans especially for personal financial security and commercial purposes. While almost all loan providers offer convenience and interest rates at par with market trends and expectations, there’s no struggle much looking for one that will satisfy the borrowers’ needs and financial goals.
In the end, what really matters is one’s maturity to deal with such a big financial compromise. Getting a personal loan comes with a big responsibility.

Expert answer – Sheila Mae Gasatan:

I am currently using credit cards to easily pay my bills on time. As opposed to most people think, however, credit cards aren’t that scary. In fact, it is one of the fastest and easiest ways to acquire cash during emergencies. The best thing I love about credit cards is you don’t have to pay for any interest as long as you pay your dues on or before the due date. It’s like taking a short-term loan without any interest at all.
But of course, it can be incredibly hard to acquire a credit card unless your credit history or financial capacity records can prove you’re capable of having one. So generally, if you’re really in need of short-term financial loans, I suggest resorting to the lenders who offer low-interest rates and at the same time longer payment periods like banks, cooperatives, and pawn shops.

What specific steps should small businesses in the Philippines take to survive in the current environment, and will business loans help this?

Expert answer – Marc Kenneth Marquez:

Businesses have gone online in response to the rising needs and preferences of consumers. While the competition has become stiffer as well as brought by the ease, lower capital cost, and convenience of putting up an online business as afforded by technology, entrepreneurs should start investing in digital infrastructure.
Relying on a single platform does not yield much profitability, and entrepreneurs should exert more effort in reaching out to their customers than the other way around. In the same way, collaboration is required among entrepreneurs themselves while products and services can be efficiently outsourced. Equally, the speed and reliability of transactions and shipment should be an utmost concern.
Enterprise loans can be a good option for many entrepreneurs who do not have enough capital but still wish to venture into an online business; however with the lending market continuously expanding, entrepreneurs need to develop a research mindset to compare the best loan products available online and offline.

Expert answer – Sheila Mae Gasatan:

Even before this pandemic happened, I already encouraged my friends and coworkers to at least learn some skills or find a way on how to earn online, since I strongly believe this is where the world is heading. And I will tell the same to the SME entrepreneurs that are heavily affected by this pandemic.
If you’re not bringing your business online, then you’re missing a great opportunity to save your business. You have to take note, however, that people right now are focusing on the essentials. So perhaps offering products that would rather focus on people’s needs will give you an edge.
As you bring your business online, you have to be wise and flexible enough in terms of marketing your products as well. So yes, an Enterprise loan may help if it means investing to provide a better service to your customers.
This idea though is not applicable to all especially to our underprivileged fellows who are in the low-income sector such as farmers, fishermen, and other microentrepreneurs. Still, a business loan could help the said sectors to raise enough capital to continue their livelihood or at least help them in increasing the mobility of their products.

What recommendations can you give for people who find themselves in a difficult financial situation under quarantine?

Expert answer – Marc Kenneth Marquez:

Filipinos should not rely just on government amelioration programs, rather on their own capacity to make informed financial decisions. The whole pandemic experience should have taught everyone one big lesson, and that is to get financially prepared for whatever worst-case scenarios.
Whether one is caught completely off guard or spared by the coronavirus crisis, one’s mindset and approach to managing finances must have been changed, and there are the key areas that should be seriously reassessed soon – household budget, emergency fund, savings, income, debt, and investments.
In the meantime, while the economy is still recovering and physical movements remain restricted, personal finance should be a top priority. Likewise, all business ventures being planned should be dealt with seriously and carefully.

Expert answer – Sheila Mae Gasatan:

Desperate times like this often call for desperate measures in order to survive. If you are privileged enough to have a laptop and an internet connection, you can push your luck online. You can work as an online freelancer for the time being or make use of your social media and other platforms to promote your products and services.
Taking loans will, of course, help you stay afloat but this is not really sustainable in the long run especially when bills and debts are starting to pile up and you’re rarely receiving any cash inflow. So think outside the box, learn new skills, and think of ways of how you can monetize those skills.