Leading economist Dr. Bernardo Villegas said that the Philippines will be one of the countries that can recover faster from the impact of the pandemic, citing the health sector as an area of growth.

"The Philippines will be one of the least negatively affected in a global recession," Dr. Villegas said at the "Prospects for the Philippine Economy in 2020 and Beyond" webinar sponsored by insurance company Allianz PNB Life.

The global insurer has been sponsoring talks about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on life and business. Prior to Dr. Villegas’ talk, Allianz PNB Life sponsored a webinar on the pandemic’s impact on the universal healthcare system with Reach52 founder and CEO Edward Booty.

In Dr. Villegas talk, he pointed out that considering the health concerns that have been raised during the pandemic, "anything related to health—curative or preventive" will be given a higher priority.

This includes opportunities for the insurance industry through the benefits and security its various health insurance products provide, covering medical expenses as well as life insurance with accident and death protection.

Along with the health sector, agribusiness is likewise seen as the country’s leading sunrise industry post-pandemic. Opportunities are also seen for the digital industry and education.

"There are some sectors, however, that will experience difficulty in recovering," Dr. Villegas said. These include the travel and tourism industry, fashion, furnishings, and non-digital entertainment.

"Anything considered luxurious will take a back seat," he said.

However, domestic travel might be able to bounce back.

Dr. Villegas likewise said that "greater emphasis" should be given to areas that can be the next Metro Manila. These include Batangas, Central Luzon, and Iloilo.

If the country will not experience a second wave of the pandemic, Dr. Villegas projects a 2.7 percent growth rate for the economy.

Opportunities for the Philippine economy are spurred by our young and growing English-speaking population against the aging labor force and demographic crisis in developed countries; rebalancing between China and other Asian economies like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and our ASEAN neighbors; heavy government spending on infrastructure; and foreign direct investment from China to Southeast Asia, among others.

"By 2021, we can back to our 6 to 7 percent trajectory," Dr. Villegas said.