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From the start of this pandemic, my role as an adviser for entrepreneurship, focusing on MSMEs, had to take a pivot due to a health issue that faced our country and the world – the COVID-19. This health issue has forced the economy to shut down and what we needed was a roadmap to solve this health problem – harnessing the private sector to work with the government became the key to winning the war against COVID-19.
Fast approaching March 15, one year since our war against COVID-19 began, we realize how long we have been fighting through this war and how we are nearing victory with the arrival of the vaccines. I won’t mention in particular the immense achievements and contributions that we have accomplished with the private sector, which sustained us throughout this war, but these initiatives are more vital than ever as we now enter the crucial stages of winning this war – securing and implementing the vaccine inoculation in the shortest time possible. That is our current goal and teamwork is critical.
With my interviews last Thursday with Rico at CNN and with Luchi, Amy, and Roby at One News, I posted some updates on our vaccine efforts, the economy, and emphasized the vitality of private, public, and citizen participation. Here are some highlights from those interviews:
With Rico on the vaccine initiatives and the importance of everyone’s participation
Rico: The private sector has been supportive of the government’s fight against COVID-19. Some businessmen see an economic rebound by the fourth quarter of this year. Let’s talk now to the presidential adviser for entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion. How important is the arrival of the AstraZeneca vaccine, particularly for the business economy?
Joey: It is very important because two months from now, the one that the private sector bought will come in from Thailand. The arrival of the AstraZeneca doses from COVAX will be like a practice dry run, so when the private sector executes its deployment for the frontline workers, it will be a seamless execution at a rapid phase. It is also very important that we open up more the economy soon and that the vaccines are the way forward, that’s why the private sector came out and partnered with the government to bring these vaccines in.
In other countries, the private sector doesn’t do that. It’s normally the government that buys all the vaccines, but here in this country, we want to help the government accelerate the purchase of these vaccines and even in the implementation – all the way to the deployment and vaccination of each of our economic frontliners.
Rico: And this is part, of course, of a tripartite agreement which is signed with the government, the private sector, and LGUs. How many doses would be arriving this May from AstraZeneca?
Joey: 2.6 million will be arriving in May and June, the balance of about 14.5 million will be arriving in the third quarter. For the half of the doses that will be arriving in May and June, we have donated that to the government for its frontline workers. So about 1.3 million will be going to the private sector and the other 1.3 million is for the frontliners. This is very important because this brings about greater confidence that the Philippines is getting its share of the vaccines.
A lot of effort is also being done by both the government and the private sector to persuade Filipino citizens that we are at war and to be effective and win the war, everybody has to participate and get vaccinated. If that doesn’t happen, even if we bring all these vaccines, we will not be able to open the economy more which will make more people suffer.
With Luchi, Amy, and Roby on the vaccine rollout and the economy
Roby: Sir, maybe we will take it from you, your assessment of how the roll out has been going so far?
Joey: I think it’s good. We have personalities like Dr. Legaspi and DG Domingo of FDA, who were among the first to be vaccinated, and I think that’s what we need, we have to show confidence to the public that these vaccines are effective in preventing death and severe hospitalization.
Roby: Sir, we know it’s a balancing act between saving lives and saving livelihood. Unbelievably, we are now close to closing the first quarter of 2021. What are the indicators on the livelihood and economy side? What are you seeing this early on as an indicator of how the economy is doing?
Joey: I am extremely bullish, in fact, I believe that the fourth quarter of this year will be the beginning of a very strong rebound because of the projected strong vaccine deployment between now ‘till the fourth quarter. If we execute and we are able to convince the Filipino people to do their part and vaccinate to protect themselves and the rest around them, we’ll win this war against COVID-19.
Luchi: Sir, how are you doing with your business projection right now? Based, of course, on the way the vaccines are coming in and the continuing uncertainty as to the supply and the loosening or restricting of quarantine guidelines, how are you doing?
Joey: Well, it depends on the sector. But my concern is the micro and small entrepreneurs who don’t have enough leeway in working capital and bank loans, and that’s the challenge, that’s why this is very important.
The economic team is actually proposing opening and moving to MGCQ. The President is a bit cautious, he wants to see more of the vaccines arriving, so I think hopefully by May they start opening up the economy much more to allow entrepreneurs to hire people and prepare for the strong fourth quarter, leading to a strong 2022.
If we don’t open the economy more, all of these programs that the economic team has done for its stimulus packages will just go to waste because if the engine is not running, why pour the gasoline. So you have to open and run the engine so that these remedial measures of stimulating the economy will not go to waste and lead us to a great fourth quarter, then a great 2022.
Roby: Sir, as Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and founder of Go Negosyo, what is your message to those who want to reenter or revive their business?
Joey: One thing this pandemic has done for many entrepreneurs is to embrace digitalization and that has created a lot of opportunities for many of our aspiring and existing entrepreneurs. I want our entrepreneurs to reach the fourth quarter that’s why the bulk of my time is really focused on the health issue – getting the private sector to participate to find the solution and work as one. I think the effort of the public and private sector have truly paid off and that is truly admirable – an embodiment of the Filipino’s Bayanihan spirit.