Lopez presses for further economic reopening

Published February 17, 2021, 4:24 PM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez has warned of irreversible damages to the economy and future of next generation if the country’s high hunger and unemployment levels continue.

Lopez said this as he meets today with Metro Manila mayors to explain the Cabinet economic cluster’s recommendation to put the entire country under the modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), the most relaxed level of quarantines under the pandemic period.

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez

Over a radio program “SRO” over Teleradyo on Tuesday night, Lopez tried to explaine the co-relation of unemployment to hunger levels in the country.

He cited data from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) showing the high unemployment and hunger rates in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, which remained under the general community quarantine status for a very long time already, restricting movements of people and continued ban of some sectors to reopen.

He said that NEDA has already pointed out the irreversible damages on the health of the youth and security and peace and order in the country when high levels of hunger and unemployment continue.

Hunger would result in malnutrition and stunted growth affecting the intelligence of children.

Hunger could also lead to peace and  order and security issues.

Lopez pointed out that 1.6 million Filipinos have remained unemployed even as unemployment rate has improved to 8.7 percent from a high of 17.7 percent in April last year.

He stressed that the 8.7 percent unemployment level is still far from the 5 percent level before the pandemic.

Metro Manila unemployment also remained double-digit at a high of 12.4 percent as more Filipinos still could not yet return to work.

Incidence of hunger also went down to 14.9 percent in December from 34 percent national average although still far from the 9 percent before the pandemic. Hunger in Metro Manila also did not go but remained at 23.3 percent.

In particular, Lopez cited the traditional cinemas alone, which reopening at 50 percent capacity for MGCQ areas was opposed by Metro Manila Mayors.

Lopez explained this was a P13-billion peso pre-COVID. It has been reduced to P1.3 billion at present. This sector also employs 300,000 workers.

Before the pandemic, there were 1,000 screens opened but those those that are operational in the MGCQ areas are only 148, which revenue was only at one percent pre-pandemic.

But this still creates economic activities as there are still production going on, movies, caterers and other related activities.

It does not also mean that when the cinemas are opened, people will flock to the theaters as many are still very cautious.

He added that the local government units will draft their additional guidelines and protocols.

Opening of more traditional cinemas will not also mean relaxing health protocols, but strictly enforcing the rules, he said.