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NEDA chief Pernia quits post, cites 'differences' with other Cabinet members

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia announced on Friday his resignation from his Cabinet post and from the helm of the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

Pernia's resignation came at a time the Philippine economy is facing challenges due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“After reflection during Holy Week, and consultations with my family and close colleagues, I have decided to resign from my post as Secretary of Socioeconomic Planning,” Pernia said in a statement.

The NEDA chief said his decision is “due partly to personal reasons and partly to differences in development philosophy with a few of my fellow Cabinet members.” He did not elaborate.

“I would like to thank the President for appointing me to the position. It has been an honor and privilege to have served the country under his administration for the past nearly four years,” Pernia said.

“I must also thank my NEDA family for their trust and confidence in my leadership of the agency in crafting and pursuing the goals of the Philippines Development Plan 2017-2022 towards our country’s Ambisyon Natin 2040, as well as evaluating and reviewing flagship infrastructure projects for approval by the President-chaired NEDA Board and their eventual implementation,” he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte has accepted Pernia’s resignation and appointed Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua as acting secretary of NEDA, according to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

Chua recently attended a meeting with Duterte and some Cabinet officials where he discussed the wage subsidy for some 3.4 employees of small businesses affected by the community quarantines aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). 

The NEDA has estimated that the COVID-19 spread’s overall economic impact across various sectors could be as much as P428.7 billion to P1.355 trillion in foregone revenues, equivalent to 2.1% to 6.6% of GDP; and as much as 116,000 to 1.8 million employment reduction.

The following are the disease’s impact per sector:

  • Transport and tourism: P77.5 billion to P156.9 billion in foregone gross value added (0.4-0.8% of GDP) and 33,800 to 56,600 jobs
  • Exports: P4.9 to P9.8 billion in foregone revenues (0.02-0.05% of GDP) and 3,000 to 6,700 jobs
  • Remittances: P3.9 billion to P8.5 billion in foregone gross value added (0.02-0.04% of GDP) and 1,700 to 4,500 jobs
  • Consumption: P45.1 billion to P93.6 billion in foregone revenues (0.2-0.05% of GDP) and 16,500 to 62,500 jobs

The COVID-19 emergency is also expected to reduce in the Philippines’ real GDP growth to -0.6% to 4.3% in 2020.

The state planning agency is proposing a three-phase approach to mitigate the social and economic impact of the COVID-19.

Phase 1A will involve clinical and medical response, the early detection and diagnosis, effective quarantine systems, effective management and treatment protocol, and research and epidemiological studies.

Phase 1B is for public health responses such as travel ban, promotion of proper hygiene, ban on crowded gatherings, school closures, work suspension, flexible work arrangements, and work continuance in essential sectors.

Meanwhile, Phase 1C will be for the short-term augmentation of the Philippines' health systems capacity, such as establishing makeshift outpatient consultation facilities with specimen harvesting, and the increase of supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and remote quarantine facilities (RQF).

This will be followed by Phase 2 which will rebuild consumer and business confidence.

Phase 3 will involve the resumption of a "new normal" state of economic activity more prepare for another possible pandemic.

“I leave NEDA knowing that we have initiated and implemented meaningful changes that will help the country overcome these challenging times and on to a higher growth trajectory,” Pernia said. --with Virgil Lopez/KBK, LDF, GMA News