Gov't wants to open up the economy some more --Nograles

The government intends to further open up the economy and public transportation in a safe and "calibrated manner" to help address the problems of unemployment and hunger, according to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Nograles said the government agreed to gradually allow more business operations, increase public transportation capacity, promote staggered work shifts, and shorten curfew hours but health and safety protocols would still be strictly enforced.

The latest decision to ease movement restrictions to stimulate economic activity was reached during President Duterte's meeting with the Cabinet in Malacañang on Monday. The country is largely under relaxed lockdown to revive the economy weakened by the global health crisis.

"The first and most important agenda of the Cabinet meeting is further opening up the economy to address joblessness and hunger and the President and the Cabinet agreed to a loosening up of some restrictions, opening up more of the economy and even lessening restrictions in terms of public transportation," Nograles said in an online interview with the Manila Bulletin. 

"The President and the Cabinet understand the need to open up more the economy and get people in their jobs to start working again but we will do it gradually, in a calibrated manner and safely, underscoring the safety and protection of everyone," he said.

To stimulate economic growth, Nograles said the government is looking into encouraging more businesses and industries to open and accept more workers. To attain this, he said workers must be able to get to work through an efficient public transportation system.

"The President approved certain adjustments in term of the capacity so increased capacity na for the transportation sector as long as  yung additional health and safety protocols are put in place to ensure hindi magkakaroon ng (there won't be) super-spreaders in the transportation sector," he said.

"If we do not loosen restrictions in our public transportation system, kahit anong pagbukas mo ng ekonomiya, kung hindi makakarating ang ating workforce doon sa kanilang sa areas o location of work because the public transportation system is inefficient or not open enough, then hindi natin ma-address ang problem of joblessness.  (If we do not loosen restrictions in our public transportation system, no matter how much you open the economy, if our workforce cannot reach their location of work because the public transportation is inefficient or not open enough, then we cannot address the problem of joblessness)," he said.

But while the government wants people to go back to work, Nograles noted that they want to avoid the crowding in offices and public transportation.

"We also don't want rush hours. Kung mayroon man rush hours, hindi ganun kataas ang peak ng rush hours (If there are rush hours, the peak of rush hour won't be too high). One of the points that were raised last night was to have staggered shifts," he said.

"So mag-staggered shift tayo, encourage staggered shifting para hindi sabay-sabay papasok ang ating mga manggagawa at hindi rin sabay-sabay uuwi ang ating manggagawa. (We will encourage staggered shifting so our workers will not go to work at the same time and go home at the same time). That way we get to spread the distribution of people particularly in using transportation systems," he said.

On shortening the curfew hours, Nograles said they will initiate a healthy discussion with the concerned local government units, particularly Metro Manila, on the matter. 

The Palace official also appealed anew to the people to continue to observe health precautions to avoid the coronavirus infection.

"While we are opening up the economy, it is incumbent upon each and every one of us to be responsible in terms of safety and protection," he said.

"Babalik at babalik pa rin tayo sa preventive measures na kailangan natin i-exercise. (We will still go back to the preventive measures that must be exercised) when we go out of the house and even when we come back to our homes," he added.