Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez has called for full reopening of business establishments even for those located in areas still under the general community quarantine (GCQ) areas so that Filipinos can return to work and can enjoy the Christmas season.
Lopez said during virtual events Monday that he has been coordinating with the Inter Agency Task Force (AITF) for the management of emerging and infectious disease on the stand of the DTI because that is the only way to bring back business and consumer confidence in the country.
He pointed out that business and consumer confidence in the country has remained weak. If this remains so, he said, more people would still be out of work.
“What we will try to do is reopen more. Maybe allow them to open 100 percent even if still under GCQ,” said Lopez adding there are ways to open more businesses at higher operating capacity without going to the modified GCQ, the most relaxed quarantine status. By having higher operating capacity, Lopez said, more workers can return to work.
Lopez pleaded that after 6 months of quarantine, the AITF should already open the remaining sectors of the economy although he admitted that his appeal may not sit well with the health workers.
“That’s my appeal that is not popular especially to the health workers but really I guarantee this, if we keep the enforcement still strict and the minimum health standards of the citizenry, I believe we can reopen. It’s been 6 months and I believe the virus will not go away. The real solution is to reopen more, allow more workers to come in so that we can bring back jobs and the income that will keep consumer confidence,” he said citing that investor confidence has gone down to 12 percent from 20 percent.
Under the GCQ level, establishment under Category 3 are only allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity, but Lopez has pressed for 100 percent capacity. These businesses include services firms like legal, accounting, wholesale and retail trade, travel agencies, administrative services, financial services, management consultancy, architecture and engineering, science and research and development, advertising and market research, computer programming, publishing and printing, film music TV production, recruitment and placement agencies for overseas employment, photography services, repair of motor vehicles motorcycles and bicycles, malls commercial centers, hardware, clothing and accessories ,bookstores, baby Infant care supplies, pet care supplies, IT Communications and electronic equipment, flower jewelry stores, music and toy stores, art galleries, firearms and ammunition trading, subject to PNP regulation, and public private construction projects.
But those that just reopened like the review and testing centers, drive in cinemas and Pet grooming, medical aesthetics other personal care services should remain on their current status quo.
Other business categories like those in entertainment, museum, tourism cultural centers can follow under MGCQ. “We don’t adjust mass assemblies, gatherings etc, because they are changed only under MGCQ,” he said.
“To reopen the economy safely, with same degree of enforcement and minimum health standard, it can still be GCQ, and just reopen other sectors under Category III from 50 percent operating capacity to 100 percent,” he reiterated.
“We would like to open more to create more business confidence. We at AITF have been pushing for more so solutions,” he said admitting that many Filipinos are still suffering from hunger. DTI is also discussing with city mayors to open more sectors.
At the Senate budget hearing, Lopez also said that based on their latest survey only 6 percent of 1.5 million businesses have remained closed although there has been sharp improvement in the opening of business from a high of 38 percent temporary closures during the height of the lockdown.
As Senator Franklin Drilon expressed disbelief at the DTI budget hearing over the 6 percent of establishments that remained closed that he thought could be understated, Lopez stressed that it is still big.
Overall unemployment rate has also been brought down from over 17.7 percent at the height of the lockdown to 10 percent rate at present or 4.4 million estimated total Filipinos unemployed. Of this number, 2.2 million Filipinos lost their jobs due to the pandemic.