Philippines

Market overview

The Philippines has emerged from one of the world's strictest and longest lockdowns amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The two-month quarantine was necessary to slow the spread of the disease, but has resulted in millions of Filipinos losing their jobs domestically, an issue compounded by the return of around 300,000 nationals expected to arrive back in their homeland soon after being displaced by unemployment overseas.

Metro Manila, Laguna and Cebu City - around 70% of the country’s population - are still in a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) that sees some retail operations able to open, but under drastically reduced capacity and enforced social distancing.

Operations considered high risk such as schooling, entertainment and health and beauty services are not permitted. In the case of schooling, President Duterte has indicated this will not resume in person until a vaccine has been developed and distributed, but will operate online where possible.

The epicentre of COVID-19 cases is the National Capital Region. It might take a while before the community quarantine restrictions are lifted completely. Stay in close communication with your in-market people and/or partners. Challenges to stay aware of include:

  • Travel restrictions will remain

  • Social distancing will be observed

  • Strict hygiene and sanitation protocols

  • Sporadic lockdowns possible

  • Looming COVID-19 threats will be foremost in the minds of individual

  • Working arrangements need to reconfigured

  • Strict sanitation protocols including transport vehicles to be implemented in the workplace

  • Working arrangements need to reconfigured

What does this mean for our exporters?

The main urban centres will continue to be under some lockdown parameters. People movement is very limited, and local government units may have varied interpretations of lockdown policies. Banks are open but within very diminished hours, usually in the mornings only.

What are the practical steps businesses can take as a result of this information?

Please ensure you are familiar with Government proclamations and administrative/executive orders during this pandemic period. These policies can change without notice.

Please visit this link for a list of all of the new government policies some of which may affect how business can be conducted.


Economy and trade

The Philippines had recorded promising economic growth over the past five years, with growth averaging over 6% and projected to exceed 7% in 2020 - until the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Now it is likely to contract in the next two quarters, despite steep cuts to interest rates and purchases of government bonds.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) or Central Bank said it tentatively projected the country's economic growth this year to settle between -1% and 0%; the latest addition to the gloomy forecasts offered by financial institutions and rating agencies amid the pandemic.

According to Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, the Government has already spent P352.7 billion out of the P4.1 trillion 2020 budget, to address the COVID-19 crisis. This was funded through tax collection, savings, and loans. He reiterated that the Government has sufficient cash to finance the programmes.

The Philippines will receive a US$100 million loan from the World Bank to help meet urgent healthcare needs and strengthen the essential healthcare delivery system for critical medical services. Fund use will focus on providing personal protective equipment (PPE), drugs, medical supplies such as intensive care unit equipment, devices such as mechanical ventilators, laboratory equipment, and test kits. In addition, the project will support the necessary logistics and supply chains to help ensure that the equipment will reach frontline health facilities without delays.

The Philippines economy is also hamstrung by movement restrictions and economic downturn overseas. More than 10 million Filipinos, or about 10% of the population, work abroad at any given time; cooking, cleaning, providing care, building things and staffing commercial ships, with their remittances accounting for about 10% of GDP.

The forecast is an estimated decrease on the remittances by around 20%. This will directly translate to lesser domestic consumer spending.

There are now reports the Government is reviewing President Rodrigo Duterte's 'Build, Build, Build' infrastructure programme, centred around aggressive development of infrastructure projects around the country. The President has told the nation that he needs to prioritise projects that strengthen the country’s healthcare infrastructure.

In the meantime, all public and private construction projects are to resume in areas under general community quarantine as long as strict guidelines are adhered, including age and health restrictions, distancing, and new sanitisation standards.

While big infrastructure projects are up in the air, consumers will prioritise basic needs with their diminishing purchasing power. Energy, water, and telecommunications are basic necessities.

Key takeaways from the current situation and focus for the future include:

  • Production to favour essential goods

  • Greater role of e-commerce. The manufacturing sector may also need to consider online B2B arrangements. A survey of Philippines exporters show that only 40% have websites

  • Greater emphasis on food security

  • Agri-food supply chain disruptions to persist

  • Greater demand for technologies that prolong shelf life period

  • Consumers will demand healthy foods

  • Reduced demand from institutional buyers such as hotels and restaurants resulting in potentially lower demand for food service products

  • Online selling will persist

  • Heightened risk of financial insolvency of some firms may delay payment to suppliers.

Supply chain, logistics & freight

The Enhanced Community Quarantine has caused logistical issues due to confusion. Road checkpoints manned by police and the military have differing interpretations on the exemptions, and some businesses are also unsure of the travel restrictions.

The quarantine proclamations of the various Local Government Units (e.g. cities, municipalities, and provinces) varies.

This has resulted in the following:

  • Port congestion delaying movement, particularly concerning for refrigerated containers (see this article for more information)

  • Courier services limited to within the specific areas of the lockdown e.g. it's impossible to get courier service from Manila to the external provinces

  • Delivery trucks can be held for longer periods at police checkpoints

  • Businesses' procurement and logistics departments can be operationally impaired while forced to work from home.

There is also a looming shortage of available cold storage facilities.

What this means for New Zealand exporters:

We urge New Zealand exporters to pay special attention to logistics during these uncertain times. Communicate closely with service providers and customers to understand what is happening on the ground, and ensure you have the financial capabilities to clear customs. We expect challenges to persist until the lockdowns are lifted.

Consider avoiding the ports in Manila. The Batangas and Subic Ports are alternatives with lower utilisation. Exporters of chilled/frozen goods should consider delaying arrival to Manila unless there is confirmed availability of a cold storage facility.

Exporters should negotiate with shipping lines for as much free time and discounts as possible for clients, and factor in the additional costs of doing business and the additional transport delays during the lockdown period.

While Manila customs say ports are back to normal, they do not consider the lack of cold storage space on shore. We do not foresee a quick resolution to this problem until the lockdown is ended and market reopens. A lack of cold storage space will persist for a while.

There is a potential opportunity for a vessel to act as a floating container yard, but costs are still unknown. This may solve part of the storage problem, but still would require detention of the reefer.

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) is promising faster processing and releasing of containers in the next few days. See this statement on the intention to expedite shipping processes here. The BOC has also ordered the continuous operation for the Holy week period.

The BOC is functioning with a skeletal workforce, and stakeholders are encouraged to communicate with all offices in BOC through the BOC Portal - including following up documents, renewal of accreditation, electronic submission of letter requests and other functions. To check the status of an entry, exporters can refer to the Goods Declaration Verification System that is also found in the portal.

Suspension of 7-day lodgement rule for goods declaration

The BOC has suspended its policy of seven-day lodgement period for goods declaration for the duration of the enhanced community quarantine. Lodgement and filing of goods declaration is now 15 days from the date of discharge of the last package.

Acceptance of Provisional Goods Declaration

A Provisional Goods Declaration is an incomplete declaration allowing tentative release of shipments, as long as pending necessary information or documents are provided within a reasonable period of time.

This applies in cases when there are no necessary permits/clearances from regulatory agencies that have been presented at the time of lodgement. This may be allowed as long as the application for the permit was filed to the appropriate regulatory agency pending issuance, and that necessary permits/clearances will still be submitted within the time frame prescribed by the regulatory agency.

This also covers Tax Exemption Indorsement, or ATRIG that has not yet been issued, but has been applied for at the time of lodgement.

Extension of Accreditation of Stakeholders

On 19 March, the BOC issued a memorandum extending the accreditation of stakeholders who were unable to process their renewal papers due to the imposed quarantine.

Under the memorandum, the extension includes importers, customs brokers, SGL importers, customs bonded warehouses, customs facilities and warehouses and other third parties transacting and accredited by the Bureau.

Stakeholders with expired accreditation during the quarantine period will be given one month from the lifting of the ECQ to submit their application for accreditation renewal.

The Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also working with skeleton staff, and has issued the below relating to License to Operate and CPR. The main points are summarised below:

General Guidance

  • Initial application for CPR is processed online. High priority is given to health products intended for the use in diagnosis, mitigation and prevention of COVID-19.

  • Those with expiring LTO and CPRs should still be renewed through the FDA ePortal System unless otherwise stated.

  • All renewal applications received from 1 March to 31 May will be given automatic extension of validity for another 4 months after the expiration date.

  • Importers with expired LTOs and CPRs should present the FDA circular to the BOC for release of their shipment.

Drugs

  • All CPRs and GMPs expiring between 1 March and 31 May are automatically extended for 4 months, with no need to apply for renewal.

  • Temporary suspension of issuance of initial CPR from 17 March to 17 May, except for products for use in diagnosis, mitigation and prevention of COVID-19.

Useful links:

Government support

A bill has been signed that allows for the Government to direct the operations of privately owned hospitals and public transportation.

The most significant portion of the bill may be the PHP 200 billion earmarked for low-income families in the country. Emergency cash aid worth PHP5,000 to PHP8,000 per family is set aside depending on the prevailing minimum wage in the region. PHP 75 billion is earmarked to purchase additional health supplies, alongside the relaxation of procurement rules. The bill would also provide special financial compensation to healthcare workers infected with the virus.

The law will be effective for three months, and Congress can extend it with the powers granted earlier.

The Philippines was the first country in the region to shut its financial markets, and a 'state of calamity' was announced by President Duterte, freeing up funds for local government.

The four pillars of President Duterte's socio economic strategy against COVID-19 can be found here.

Travel

Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport has begun to unwind a temporary ban on international arrivals that ended on 15 May. The relaxation of the ban has seen both commercial and charter flights touch down, but only returning residents and Philippine passport holders, foreign dignitaries and diplomats are allowed to enter the country on inbound commercial flights.

In-bound international charters may land on Mondays and Thursdays, while the other days are reserved for commercial passenger services. While passenger numbers on the chartered flights are uncapped, daily international arrivals are capped at just 400 passengers on the other days. This schedule will operate through to June 10.

Philippines travel advisory: Safetravel.govt.nz

Tradeshow and event information

Below is the status of major Philippines tradeshows and events that NZTE's teams are aware of.

If you have questions about an event not listed here, please contact the organisers in the first instance or get in touch with NZTE for further advice.

  • FHTB 2020 (Food Hotel and Tourism Bali) is postponed to 1 – 3 October 2020.


Sector insights

As is to be expected, numerous sectors have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Below you'll find information on any COVID-19 effects across important sectors and industries in the Philippines.

General

Various industries have been impacted at greatly different rates during the pandemic so far, and will have unique recovery needs and timeframes. Below is a list of some of the main industries ranked by their exposure to the current economic outlook:

High Exposure

  • Apparel

  • Automotive manufacturers

  • Automotive suppliers

  • Consumer durables

  • Gaming

  • Lodging/leisure

  • Tourism

  • Passenger airlines

  • Retail

  • Global shipping

Moderate Exposure

  • Aerospace and defense

  • Beverages

  • Chemicals

  • Media

  • Metals and mining

  • Oil and gas

  • Property development

  • Agriculture

  • Services

  • Steel

  • Technology hardware

  • Wholesale distribution

Low Exposure

  • Construction materials

  • Equipment and transportation

  • Packaging

  • Pharmaceuticals

  • Food

  • Food retail

  • Telecoms

  • Waste management

  • IT products

  • Natural products

Additional resources

Below you can find information and contact details for other New Zealand government and international agencies regarding their response to COVID-19.

New Zealand Government agencies

Covid19.govt.nz
COVID-19 helpline for businesses
Business.govt.nz
New Zealand Customs
Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)
New Zealand Export Credit (NZEC)
MFAT Export Helpline
MFAT Safetravel
Callaghan Innovation
Immigration
Ministry of Health
WorkSafe New Zealand

Global agencies

World Health Organization (WHO)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Contact NZTE

We're available to talk to you about any issues your export business is facing due to COVID-19.

For existing NZTE customers, please contact your New Zealand-based Customer Manager.

If you're unsure who to contact or haven't worked with us before, you can call NZTE on 0800 555 888 or email below and one of our Customer Advisors will help you.