Philippines

Market overview

After emerging from one of the world’s strictest and longest lockdowns in June, a resurgence of COVID-19 means stay-at-home orders are now in place in Manila and four surrounding provinces on the island of Luzon. Businesses in the capital and outlying regions comprise about 67% of the national economy.

Police checkpoints will return to ensure only authorised service people, including medical personnel and workers in vital companies, travel outside of their homes. According to AP, commuter trains, buses and other public vehicles are no longer in operation in Manila; most domestic flights to and from the capital were cancelled, and night curfews will return in places.

Operations considered high risk such as schooling and entertainment 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.

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

  • Mass public transport is operating at partial capacity

  • 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. There will be spontaneous hard lockdowns targeting community outbreaks. Mass public transport is partially operating, limiting mobility of people and workers. General businesses (except those in the leisure and children’s entertainment industries) are beginning to cautiously resume operations, albeit partially and slowly.

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.

For more information on doing business in the Philippines, visit myNZTE - our free online portal for curated, in-depth information and guidance. 


Economy and trade

According to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) or Central Bank Governor Benjamin Diokno, it was projected that the economy will grow 6.5% - 7.5% for 2020 before the pandemic. This has now been downgraded to a contraction of 2% - 3.4% this year.

The World Bank report updated its forecast for the Philippine economy for a contraction of 1.9% this year due to the economic fallout triggered by natural disasters and COVID-19. However, the World Bank noted "there are good chances that the country can bounce back in the next two years".

Diokno stated that the downturn in the second quarter of 2020 will be deeper as the extension of the lockdown further dampens domestic demand and lowers production activities.

He stated the inflation outlook second quarter is expected to be benign. For this year, inflation is expected to average about 2.3% for 2020 and 2.6%for 2021, which is within the BSP's target of 2% - 4%.

He also stated that remittances from overseas Filippino workers may decrease by 2%, equivalent to US$28.5 billion from the usual US$38 billion. However, Diokno expects that this will be off-set by the business process outsourcing industry (BPO) duue to higher demand and because their transactions are digital.

The Philippines’ economy is hamstrung by movement restrictions and the economic downturn overseas. More than 10 million Filipinos, or about 10% of the population, work abroad at any given time, with their remittances accounting for about 10% of GDP.

The decrease in remittances will directly translate to lesser domestic consumer spending.

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.

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.

According to NZTE’s industry sources, three of the biggest developers of retail shops, commercial and office spaces announced the suspension of all projects for 12-24 months. This sector of the construction industry will be badly hit.

Big ticket government infrastructure projects that have already broken ground will most likely continue, however those projects that have not started yet must consider the risk of the possible change in the political landscape after the 2022 national elections.

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 congestion at Manila Ports is now easing up after stakeholders were able to adjust to the various restrictions brought upon by the community quarantine. There is also lesser confusion now on the implementation of road checkpoints, which were put in place to help improve the flow of goods around the country.

All seaports and airports are now open and operational, however there are still very limited commercial flights vying the international and domestic routes.

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 after lockdowns are lifted.

Exporters of chilled/frozen goods should confirm availability of a cold storage facility prior to shipping.

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.

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.

While tourism is still banned, domestic travel is possible for locally stranded individuals and overseas Filipino workers.

There have been reports of prolonged quarantine periods for returning Filipinos from overseas due to flaws in the COVID-19 testing system. Some have stayed in quarantine for over one month.

Philippines travel advisory: Safetravel.govt.nz

Tradeshow and event information

All mass gatherings are prohibited under the current community quarantine directives. All major trade shows and events are either cancelled or postponed.

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
myNZTE

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.