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Philippine finance secretary expects return to normal this year, sees economic growth accelerating – CNBC

Philippine Secretary of Finance Carlos Dominguez said the country has made significant progress in containing the pandemic and will return to normal this year.

“We are very confident that 2022 will be the year that we will return to normalcy. Despite the surge in infections due to omicron in early January, we have succeeded in limiting severe infections and deaths,” Dominguez told CNBC “Squawk Box Asia” on Friday.

He noted daily Covid cases are rapidly subsiding from the peak of 39,000 in mid-January to about 2,000 in recent days. Dominguez also said the country has made good progress in its vaccination rate.

“We have administered 132 million shots as of Feb. 14. A total of 61.5 million Filipinos are now fully vaccinated. Over 9.2 million Filipinos have already received their booster shots,” Dominguez said.

Even with the pandemic, the Philippines posted 5.6% growth for 2021. The outlook for 2022 remains robust and the government expects the economy to grow between 7% and 9% this year, said Dominguez.

There are a number of “bright spots” this year that could support the government’s recovery, he added. That includes the collection of tax revenue, which the government expects to return to pre-pandemic levels, the finance secretary noted.

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Green bonds

In addition, the government is in talks with various banks on the appropriate structure for a maiden green bond offering.

“This year the Philippines aims to issue its first ever sustainability bond for a benchmark size of at least $500 million,” said Dominguez.

The timing of the issue will depend on prevailing market conditions and investor sentiments, he said.

“We are in deep conversation with our bankers. And as soon as the market conditions are ready, we will make the appropriate announcement,” the secretary said.