The government should consider further relaxing the quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila and Calabarzon to boost economic activities and limiting future lockdowns at the level of barangays and even companies that record high cases of coronavirus, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said Tuesday night.
Dominguez proposed the shift of the two regions to the modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) “as quickly as possible” during a meeting with President Duterte, citing these areas comprise 67 percent of the country’s economy.
Metro Manila, Cavite, and Rizal have remained under general community quarantine (GCQ) until July 15 based on President Duterte’s latest order to try to contain the coronavirus outbreak. Other provinces in Region IV-A, namely Laguna, Batangas and Quezon, have graduated to the more relaxed MGCQ.
“We have to face the new reality. The reality today is that the virus is not going to go away. And we will have to live with it for a long period of time. So far, that’s the story, Mr. President. And I really believe we really should begin opening,” Dominguez said in his remarks aired on state television.
“You put NCR, Calabarzon, that is where the economy is based. About 60 percent or 67 percent of our economy is based on that area. That should move more to the MGCQ as quickly as possible because people have to start working,” he added.
Dominguez also made a pitch for the localized lockdowns to limit the impact on the economy. “For me, we should monitor it on a — maybe on a barangay level and if you know, the cases go up, just close it down. But do it on a place to place. And do it also on a company-to-company basis. So if the company has a big spike, close it down also,” he said.
Dominguez said the country started with “strong economic fundamentals” such as 6.6 percent average growth rate from 2016 to 2019, stable inflation, and high credit rating, to address the pandemic. But he admitted the country cannot meet its goal to become an upper-middle income country this year amid the impact of the pandemic.
The local economy shrank to 0.2 percent in the first quarter of 2020 as the lockdown implemented since March forced the closure of many businesses and left millions of Filipinos jobless. Central Bank Governor Benjamin Diokno recently noted that the country’s gross domestic product in the second quarter may contract by as much as 6.7 percent as the quarantine measures have dampened business and consumer spending.
The government has retained the strict lockdown in Cebu City while keeping Metro Manila and several places under GCQ in a bid to strike a balance between the containment of the disease and reviving the stalled economy. Quarantine measures have been gradually eased across most of the country, allowing more businesses to operate.