Government should further reopen the domestic economy to prevent job losses resulting from downsizing or closure of a number businesses, the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) and the government’s economic managers urged.
Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez expressed hopes that further reopening of the economy will be allowed next month, reiterating that the economy is still far from the pre-COVID-19 economic data. Also, he said, the economic team would propose again to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) that the National Capital Region for a more relaxed modified general community quarantine status from the current general community quarantine level.
“If COVID numbers still okay, together with the National Economic and Development Authority and economic team we propose by third week to the Inter Agency Task Force, and to the President for approval,” he said.
Lopez said that the easing of age restriction was postponed by President Duterte because of the new COVID variant, but expressed hopes the Malacanang would allow the easing of restrictions next month.
He said the statistics would show that there is basis to reopen the economy further particularly what he called the “family bubble” to boost sagging business and preserve employment. He noted that after a year of implementation of health and safety protocols, Filipinos have adopted and are following the requirements.
The long quarantines in the country has caused the Philippine economic recovery difficult to pre-COVID level. “We are still far from pre-COVID level,” he said citing the continued high unemployment rate at 8.7 percent compared to 5 percent pre-pandemic. Although it has already improved from a high of more than 17 percent in April last year, Lopez said it is still far from the recovery level.
He said the economy should be reopened further “ASAP” in a calibrated way. He said this has been the consensus also of the economic cluster cabinet.
Meantime, ECOP President Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. said “Our economy cannot bear it anymore. Before, our worry was the micro and small industries. Now, our worry is the big ones are beginning to really downsize or close. We should avoid that from happening.”
He said the 10,000 deaths related to the coronavirus pandemic is a small number compared to those who die from hunger while the crime rate can increase due to job losses.
To further reopen the economy, Ortiz-Luis Jr. said there should be sufficient mass transportation as many companies cannot provide shuttle services for their employees.
He added businesses should be given the opportunity to prosper so more can get hired.
“Reopen and implement the minimum public health protocols. Catch protocol offenders but let all reopen,” Ortiz-Luis Jr. said in Filipino in another radio interview.
He added the Philippines can learn from its neighbors how they reopened their economies amid the pandemic.
Ortiz-Luis Jr., also president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (PHILEXPORT), cited the result of the group’s survey on the status of firms for 2021. Findings showed that majority or 57.6 percent of the respondents reported no lay-off, while 42.4 percent laid off employees either temporarily or permanently.
About 70 percent of the respondent firms cited difficulties in coordinating with supply/value chains as the top factor why they experienced operational slowdown or shutdown last year, followed by difficulty in transportation (48.5 percent).
He added that the majority or 81.8 percent of the survey respondents said they are undertaking measures to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus in their respective companies.
These are through strictly following the minimum public health protocols, which includes wearing masks, hand hygiene, and physical distancing, he said.