Exporters see return to full operation unlikely in 6 months

By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Even if government lifts the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the National Capital Region and transitions into the general community quarantine (GCQ) by May 16, exporters can hardly go back to full operation in the next 6 months, according to the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (PhilExport).

Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr.

“At least 6 months if not a year before exporters can go back to 100 percent operation because first of all, the implementation of health protocols and quarantine policies are not coordinated and difficult to comply as most of us have no capabilities,” said PhilExport President Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr.

Ortiz-Luis said that until now the transport requirements including the “rapid pass” for exporters cannot be implemented properly. The issuance of “rapid pass” has been transferred to the Department of ICT from the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Diseases.

Although there has been a memorandum circular allowing “free flow of goods” and inputs/materials for exporters and manufacturers, local government units (LGUs) have their own policies, thus hampering transport of goods.

He cited two exporters that tried to operate during the ECQ but gave up their efforts because of difficulties in transporting their goods. “Even with the exemption, there are still unsettled implementation issues that even getting passes for the transport of goods are so difficult to process,” he said noting that Batangas and Laguna LGUs have different policies.

So far, only 30-40 percent of exporters have continued operating, but majority have remained closed.

He blamed this to the lack of consultation with the private sector, even when the government decided to enforce the ECQ. “They do, but it was more of afterthought,” he said.

“That is why we stressed government should consult the private sector, the players must be represented in the decision-making process,” he said.
“The ECQ period is about to end on May 15, but implementation of systems still remained uncoordinated,” he lamented.

Already, PhilExport expects 50 percent reduction in revenues and volume for the April and May period in addition to the 26 percent cut in the month of March alone.

While exporters support the transition to GCQ starting May 16, Ortiz-Luis said that many micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) can no longer go back to operation unless the government will make good its promise for financial intervention. He expects only 80 percent of business can operate again.

“This is because even with GCQ, the medium and large enterprises will find the requirements difficult to comply,” he said citing the difficulties even in the distribution of the social amelioration program.
In addition, there is still a problem when it comes to the global supply chain as other suppliers overseas are still having difficulties with production due to the pandemic.

But business cannot just continue with the lockdown because it becomes more costly not just to their finances, but also to the health of the people.
“Long lockouts will affect the immune system of people as they become more susceptible to other diseases plus which could be deadly,” he said.

Instead, he pushed for a gradual reopening of the economy and impose selective quarantine for barangays as needed.