By BERNIE CAHILES-MAGKILAT and JEAN FERNANDO
The reopening of traditional cinemas is expected to bring back displaced workers and help revive the entertainment industry, which was pegged at P13 billion and employed roughly 300,000 Filipinos before COVID-19 lockdowns and quarantines padlocked theaters nationwide, Trade and Industry Ramon M. Lopez said on Sunday.
Quoting industry figures, the DTI chief said the local entertainment industry, including film production, distribution, and cinemas, has a size of P13 billion pre-pandemic and employs 300,000 Filipinos.
The industry, however, shrunk to P1.3 billion in 2020 following the lockdowns and quarantines that padlocked cinemas for almost a year already. The reopening of traditional cinemas is expected to bring back the displaced workers.
Lopez said this amid hesitation by some Metro Manila mayors to reopen traditional cinemas to moviegoers for fear this will trigger more transmission of the virus as theaters are normally in enclosed and in an airconditioned complex.
Paranaque City Mayor Edwin Olivarez said yesterday the Metro Manila Council (MMC) is now drafting a resolution to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease opposing the resumptions of operations of cinemas in areas under the General Community Quarantine (GCQ).
Olivarez said the MMC’s resolution to the IATF opposing the opening of cinemas will be submitted today, February 15. He said Metro Manila mayors are apprehensive with the recommendation to reopen cinemas under the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) because it did not go through “proper consultation.”
DTI defends move
Secretary Lopez defended the move stressing that the decision was reviewed by experts in the technical working group of the Inter Agency Task Force with the departments of health, labor and employment, tourism, DTI, interior and local government, and finance. There are also extra protocols required such as ventilation, he said.
In addition, Lopez said that Metro Manila theaters are allowed only to operate at 50 percent capacity being still under the general community (GCQ) level. All others under the modified GCQ status, however, have been operating already of up to 75 percent capacity.
Lopez hopes that the reopening of cinemas in Metro Manila, even at 50 percent capacity only, would help boost economic activities. The National Capital Region and nearby provinces account for 50 percent of the entire domestic economy.
Alarmed by the continued high unemployment in the country, Lopez had pushed for the easing of age restrictions or kids allowed to go outside from 15 years old to 10, stressing family expenses account for 30-50 percent of spending.
The IATF submitted the economic cluster recommendation in the third week of January this year, but President Duterte reversed the decision amid the new discovery of the more vicious UK variant COVID-19.
Olivarez said the MMC will have a consultation a week before March to determine what will be the new quarantine status of Metro Manila.
He said that health experts will still be consulted to know whether Metro Manila is already ready to be place under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).
The mayor said that while Metro Manila is still under the GCQ status and the movement is still limited cinemas should still remain close to contain the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
He said that majority of the mayors agreed not to reopen cinemas.
“Tingnan natin, unti-untiin natin kung walang spike. Nakakatakot dito mag-spike. Mahirap bumalik sa dati. Eto na yung bakuna eh, (Let’s see, let’s take it slow if there’s no spike in cases. What’s scary is if there will be a spike. It would be difficult to go back. The vaccine is almost here), Abalos said.
Senators raised their concern over the national government’s decision to reopen cinemas and further ease the business, cultural and other leisure activities in the country.
“Nakakatakot (It’s scary),” Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said in an interview over radio DWIZ on Saturday, February 13.
A COVID-19 survivor, Zubiri said the Interagency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases’ (IATF) relaxation of its rules could result in another surge of coronavirus infections in the country, citing what happened in Europe and in the United States.
“Ano ang ginagawa ng mga sinehan, meron ba silang bagong filtraton system ng air conditioning? Alam ko social distancing…pero ‘yong hangin na hinihinga mo recycled pa rin (What are the cinemas doing, do they have a filtration system for their air conditioning? I know they will enforce social distancing, but the air that people will breath in are still recycled),” she said in a separate DWIZ interview.
Duterte eyes economic benefits
President Duterte understands that the decision of the government’s pandemic task force to reopen cinemas and other businesses in areas under the general community quarantine (GCQ) is essential to the to revival of the economy.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that despite concerns expressed by local government officials about the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), President Duterte understood why the IATF made the decision.
“Naintindihan naman niya dahil talagang pinag-iisipan na rin ng Presidente kung paano talaga tayo makakabangon (He understood and he really is thinking about how we can recover),” he said.
“Lumalabas na sa buong mundo isa tayo sa pinakamabagal na makakabangon kasi nga parang napakahaba at napakatagal na noong ating lockdown na ipinatutupad (It appears that we’re one of the countries with the slowest economic recovery rate because of our long lockdown),” he added.
In his interview with Super Radyo DZBB, Roque said the recovery of the Philippine economy is possible despite the ongoing pandemic because people now know to protect themselves if they want to make a living.
Robredo questions move
Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday questioned the government’s decision to allow cinemas and game arcades to operate when it has not even addressed issues of transportation and face-to-face classes in schools.
Speaking on her weekly radio show, Robredo was puzzled why the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) against COVID-19 allowed the opening of cinemas and video game arcades, both located in enclosed areas.
“We are going to prioritize cinemas and video game arcade. These are enclosed. For more than an hour the people are going to be there together. I do not know if this is based on science,” she said in Filipino.
Robredo reiterated her call for the administration to focus on the health aspect of reopening the economy.
“This is a cause for concern. I don’t know what kind of science is behind it. We understand that the economy needs to reopen but even when they reopened the malls, there aren’t a lot of people there because they are still afraid.” (With reports from Vanne Elaine P. Terrazola, Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos, and Raymund Antonio)