Concepcion urges ASEAN to produce vaccines, anti-viral pills

Presidential adviser on entrepreneurship Jose Ma. Concepcion III has urged ASEAN countries to manufacture anti-viral pills and vaccines to ensure continued domestic growth amid the pandemic and the economic impact from the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion (Photo from Go Negosyo Facebook page)

“Anti viral pills had to be produced in ASEAN and hopefully we develop our own vaccines for whatever variant that will come in the future,” Concepcion said in a speech at the virtual ASEAN-Japan Business Meeting (AJBM) on Thursday, March 10. None of the 10 ASEAN countries and its economic partner Japan is producer of own vaccine or anti-viral pills.

He also realized that the Philippines or ASEAN is not a priority in terms of vaccine supplies, which he said is a weakness. “We were not the priority for these vaccines. And it should change,” he urged the meeting attended by top Japanese government officials led by Ambassador to the Philippines H.E. Kazuhiko Koshikawa and officials from ASEAN countries led by Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, representing the Philippines as country coordinator for the meeting, and officials of the AJBM from both the private sector in Japan and the Philippines.

Concepcion noted that the past 24 months have taught the people that vaccine is the way to prevent people from death, or severe infection, or getting hospitalized. “That (vaccine) was the true weapon. I think that we have established, vaccines prevented people from hospitalization,” he said stressing that the risk of not having any weapon will be far much greater.

But since COVID-19 was new there was little knowledge about it and the developing countries rely on the supply of vaccines, treatments, medical equipment, and test kits from the developed countries.

The succeeding lockdowns, he said, hit the business sector really hard with only the essential sectors allowed to operate. As presidential adviser on entrepreneurship, Concepcion said the private sector focused on purchasing vaccines and VCR equipment in support of the government.

“Many of our MSMEs were really affected. Many of them could not pay their debt, because of the closure. And until today, some of them cannot open because of lack of capital,” he said describing the first year of the pandemic. But as the vaccines arrived and people get inoculated and health protocols are enforced and followed, the country was able to slowly emerge from the pandemic.

Today, the Philippines has 71 percent vaccination rate with the National Capital Region at higher 90 percent.

The challenge now, he said, is how to revive the economy. As the cases go down and the economy is reopening to full capacity, Concepcion urged the government to focus on the domestic economy.

But with the conflict of Ukraine and Russia, he said, greater problems will happen in the world like commodity prices now hitting all time high as oil prices skyrocket, and potential shortages in fuel if this conflict will escalate.

With that, he said, the domestic economy for each nation must be strong to ride through this Ukraine and Russia crisis. “That is now the focus of what the private sector is pushing in the Philippines. Focus on the economy, strengthen your micro and small entrepreneurs because they comprise 90 percent of the business community. In the Philippines and they contribute 80 percent of total employment. That’s huge,” he pointed out.

So he advised the President to strengthen this sector to support the domestic economy. Prolonged Ukraine-Russia conflict means higher inflation and worse stagflation. “Rising prices and falling consumer demand is the worst thing to happen. Especially as each country tries to recover,” he pointed out.

“So, our way forward, there is no other way but to find that winning formula to be able to live with COVID-19,” he said this means allowing people to move and push for more vaccinations and further stir economic activities.

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