The government is positioning itself for a more energized resumption of economic activity. Indeed, the country remains hopeful that this time around the road ahead will be less challenged than previous attempts to balance lives and livelihood. The game changer is the rising number of vaccines – both in terms of supply and actual inoculations.

The latest estimate of government places the expected percentage of vaccinated Filipinos at some 50% by year’s end. It’s not quite what they originally targetted but it is certainly enough to get people on the brighter side of the new year. In the National Capital Region (NCR), the estimated percentage of vaccinees is around 85%, especially now that minors aged 12 to 17 have already been qualified to receive their vaccinations. Booster shots for the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions are also expected to be authorized sooner than later. This is all good.

The other essential driver of economic recovery, though, is mobility.

As more and more businesses and sectors of the economy are being allowed to reopen – and with expanded capacity as well –the need to get people to their workplaces rises significantly.The government is reporting a rise in the restoration of jobs; this is great news for the great number of Filipinos who were displaced as a result of the pandemic.Inter-zonal and intrazonal travel is allowed and no age restrictions are imposed on mobility. But, as more andmore people take to the roads, the demands on public and private transport needto be met.

Already, the government has announced a relaxation in the allowed capacity of public conveyances. Jeeps and buses are now allowed up to 70 percent capacity. Curfew has also been lifted thus allowing 24/7 operations of public transport. In addition, rail efficiency has been improved through enhancements oftrack conditions, faster train speeds and newer rail cars.

The fact remains, though, that health protocols still need to be imposed in order to prevent a resurgence in COVID-19 infections. Therefore, full capacity in the operation of road and rail transport cannot be harnessed. This is a necessary element of the new normal and is in the best interests of the riding public.

As such, the role of private mobility becomes more significant. People will seek alternative transport options to augment their usual recourses. In fact, the new car market is reflecting a gradual and steady recovery. In the first nine months of the year, car sales have risen 25 percent from year-ago levels. Compared to pre-COVID levels, new vehicle sales are at about 68 percent versus the same period in 2019. A rise in demand for small passenger cars, vans and SUV’s was noted, underscoring the increase in first car purchases. Perhaps, this indicates that more people are opting for private instead of public transport.

In addition, corporations and SME’s are returning to the new vehicle market. Capital expenditures that were put on hold due the the disruptions of the pandemic are now being restored. Refleetingis being undertaken in line with the resumption of business activity. As well, the rise in demand for logistics services under the new normal is driving expansion of cargo delivery vehicles.

Meantime, sales of used cars is also perking up. The second hand car market is, in fact, larger than the new car market. In 2020, the new car market declined by 40 percent. Used car sales also dropped but it is estimated that the drop was at a lesser 25 percent. It shows that amid the uncertainty of the pandemic, purchases of used cars may have been less affected. This is either because of a rise in private transport needs due to restrictions in public transport or a preference for personal mobility that allows a higher degree of physical distancing.

In total, the new and used car markets have been showing nascent signs of recovery. It is expected that this uptrend will continue in light of the reopening of the economy. Mobility is needed to get people to and from work. It is also needed to get consumers to places of commerce and retail. Transporting goods to and from places of production also underlines the necessity for increased mobility. And, tourism and travel will likewise result to added mobilityrequirements. The automotive sector – new and used – is hopeful that these expectedlifts to demand will help the industry transition back to pre-COVID levels sooner than later.

The Philippine economy is on the mend. Mobility is an essential part of that recovery.

Source: Manila Bulletin (