Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary  

#AskNEDA 2020 Year-end Press Briefing 

December 17, 2020 | 11:00 A.M. 


Dear friends from the media and colleagues from NEDA, let me first greet you all a merry Christmas. 


Despite this whirlwind of a year, we started 2020 with a strong foundation and the country was likely to become an upper-middle income country this year if not for COVID-19. Between 2015 and 2018, poverty rate fell from 23.5% of the population to 16.7% of the population in 2018. This means we have lifted some six million Filipinos from poverty. This was our target for 2022 but we achieved it in 2018, four years in advance. 

Over the past four years, GDP growth averaged 6.6 percent, placing the country among the fastest growing economies in the world. We recorded low and stable inflation, which averaged 3 percent from 2016 to 2019, well within the government’s target range of 2 to 4 percent. This was supported by the passage of foundational reforms such as the Rice Tariffication law (RTL).  

In 2019, we had the highest revenue-to-GDP ratio in decades at 16.1 percent and the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio at 39.6 percent- enabled by the comprehensive tax reform program and other fiscal measures. Had we not done crucial reforms like the rice tariffication, tax reform, universal healthcare, and national ID, we would have had a more difficult time dealing with what lay ahead. 

However, we did not anticipate what can only be described as a series of unexpected events which has affected almost every aspect of our economy and our very own lives. 

2020 RECAP 

This year brought enormous challenges, not just to the Philippines, but also to all economies around the world. 

In the first quarter of 2020, the Taal volcano eruption affected livelihoods and led to a decline in tourism. By March, COVID-19 became a global pandemic and we made the difficult decision to implement the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) to buy us time to strengthen our healthcare system, but this came at a huge cost to the economy. We saw a significant contraction of our economy by 16.9 percent and a significant increase in the unemployment rate at 17.6 percent in the second quarter given the closure of businesses and the loss of income during the ECQ.  

In the second half of 2020, our health system improved significantly, allowing us to relax the quarantines. However, as we gradually reopened the economy, we faced several typhoons: Ofel, Nika, Pepito, Quinta, Rolly, and Ulysses and the accompanying floods.     

This has not been an easy year but in every crisis, there is also an opportunity to move our country forward, as our past experiences show. 


At the start of my term as the Acting Secretary in April, I was given the marching orders by the President to focus on three priorities: fast-track the national ID, accelerate the infrastructure program, and craft an economic recovery program.  Building on the work done by my predecessors,  we have made significant strides in these priorities despite contending with a pandemic and other challenges this year. 

National ID 

More than 9 million Filipinos in 32 targeted provinces have already completed the step 1 registration to the Philippine Identification System or PhilSys or the National ID. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), as of 14 December 2020, a total of 9,004,546 went through step 1 registration, that means the collection of demographic data, exceeding the 9 million target for 2020. We aim to register more than 10 million individuals for step 1 by the end of this year.  

We thank the PSA, our partners in government and civil society, and the registration officers on the ground for their tireless efforts in ensuring a safe and efficient registration for all despite the quarantine and the pandemic. The work continues next year as we aim to register at least 50 million individuals in 2021.  

The national ID aims to address one of the major barriers to financial inclusion, which is the lack of an ID. Among the 9 million step 1 registrants, 89.3 percent said they do not have bank accounts. The Land Bank of the Philippines (Land Bank) will co-locate, with the PSA, in step 2 registration centers to allow registrants to open a bank account. This is an opportunity to provide accounts to all 20 million low-income families by the end of next year.  

We are also exploring how the national ID may assist the government in the efficient distribution of vaccines. 

Infrastructure program 

Despite the pandemic, the government is committed to pursuing its infrastructure program. In the 2021 GAA, some 1.1 trillion pesos, around 5.4% of GDP, is allocated to infrastructure. We estimate that around 1.7 million direct and indirect jobs would be created by the infrastructure program in 2021. This highlights the infrastructure program’s pivotal role in reviving the economy given its high multiplier effect.   

In response to COVID-19, we have also reassessed and reprioritized our infrastructure program to include more projects that are responsive to addressing the challenges brought by the pandemic.   

The revised list of infrastructure flagship projects now includes 104 projects under the sectors of health, information and communications technology, power and energy, transport and mobility, urban development, and water resources. 

Economic Recovery Plan 

NEDA also played an active role in the Inter-Agency Task Force Technical Working Group for Anticipatory and Forward Planning (IATF-TWG for AFP) and released the ‘We Recover as One’ report, detailing how we can enable the economy to recover and transition to the new normal, and this formed the basis of the 2021 National Expenditures Program. An immediate action plan for economic recovery was also formulated, called Recharge PH, which became the basis of the National Action Plan (NAP) Phase III.  

To really recover, the key is to manage risks, not to avoid them. All economic indicators reveal that with the safe relaxation of the economy, incomes and jobs come back, while with more restrictions, the reverse happens.  

With significant progress in the health system against COVID-19, the focus now should be on striking a better balance to also care for all those who are jobless, those who have lost their income, those who are hungry, those who are depressed, and those who are at risk of dying from non-COVID diseases. 

This Christmas season, the government has been proactive in advising people to be more careful so that we do not reverse the gains we painstakingly worked for this year. 

Our main intervention is to open up the economy safely so that we can recover faster. Public transport has already been opened significantly and, following experts’ advice, we will also start pilot face to face learning in MGCQ or low risk areas starting January 2021. 

We also aim to gradually relax age group restriction, especially with the children, with the approval of the local government units (LGU). Up to 50 percent of sales in malls and food establishments are driven by families. If we keep the children at home and don’t allow them to go out, even for school, then a big part of the economy is still effectively closed, given our very young demographic profile. 

The government will also avoid reversal to more strict quarantine. When NCR reverted back to MECQ last August, it created a lot of uncertainty for consumers and businesses. Instead, we will prioritize localized quarantines and enforce better the minimum health standards.  

To support our recovery, we saw significant progress in legislation. Congress already passed the 2021 General Appropriations Act (GAA) and the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer (FIST) Act to help businesses in need of liquidity support. Congress also extended the Bayanihan II and the 2020 budget, which add room to our fiscal support.  

The Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) bill is now at the bicameral conference committee. Once enacted, this will contribute to the stimulus package, benefiting mostly MSMEs that comprise 99 percent of businesses and employ over 60 percent of Filipino workers. 

All these form a coherent package that provides us with ample fiscal and financial support to help the economy recover. 


As NEDA celebrates its 85th anniversary this year, we reflect on our role in this crucial crossroad of Philippine development. Building on the achievements and vast experiences of NEDA over the decades, we sought the guidance of former NEDA secretaries last month on how NEDA can effectively perform its growing mandate amid scarcer resources. 

This effort is in line with our initiative to strengthen the NEDA institution towards more effective and active policy formulation, planning, programming, monitoring and evaluation through both legislative and executive action.  

This continuity in objective and direction has characterized much of our economic policy over the past decades and is also the very reason why the economy has remained resilient despite headwinds and shocks. 

As we move towards 2021, NEDA remains guided by our principle of placing the Filipino people in the center of our plans or as our maxim says: ‘sentro ang tao sa ating plano.’ In this regard, NEDA is conducting another Consumer and Employee Survey to determine the general confidence of the people in opening up the economy. This is a follow-through of the earlier surveys earlier this year and we enjoin everyone to participate. Please visit the NEDA website and share the link to our friends and family members.  

To conclude, we will strive hard to ensure that we do not let this crisis go to waste. The challenges are immense, but we are determined to build back a better future our people and our children deserve. We look with optimism to the future as we do our work so that, together, we can reach our Ambisyon Natin 2040 vision of a matatag, maginhawa, at panatag na buhay para sa lahat. 

 Again, thank you very much and I wish everyone a merry and safe holiday season.