ECQ-proof industries

Published April 8, 2021, 6:00 AM

by J. Albert Gamboa

A year after the National Capital Region (NCR) and the rest of Luzon Island went into the dreaded ECQ, or enhanced community quarantine, for two months, here we are back to square one with the resurgence of COVID-19 cases and hard lockdowns in NCR plus the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal.

Millions of Filipinos in the Greater Metro Manila area are once again confined to their homes, this time for extended periods since the curfew is now 11 hours long from 6:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. Only a few industries have been allowed by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to operate in areas under ECQ.

The forced isolation of households is actually a blessing in disguise for businesses such as those in the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) industry. In 2020, more consumers used LPG as their primary source of fuel at home – especially for cooking in the urban areas.

For instance, 100% Filipino-owned LPG firm South Pacific Inc. (SPI) benefited from the new work-from-home and online learning arrangements by experiencing the largest increase in total country market share by 4.3 percentage points from 17.9% in 2019 to 22.2% last year.

SPI overtook the perennial frontrunner in the LPG sector, Petron Corp., whose market share went down from 28.2% to 21.0% – lagging behind the new industry leader, Liquigaz Philippines Corp. (LPC) and second-placer SPI. However, LPC’s market share only went up by 1.6 percentage points year-on-year from 22.0% to 23.6%.

In Luzon, which makes up 78% of the country’s total LPG demand equivalent to 1.3 million metric tons, Petron also dropped to third place with a market share of only 18.0% as compared to LPC’s 30.3% and SPI’s 27.6%.

Petron still remains the industry leader in the Visayas and Mindanao, cornering 33.5% of the southern LPG market where the top two firms have minimal presence. But not for long though: SPI’s Cebu terminal is already in operation and more will be opened in the future.

Another business that is flourishing nowadays is the provision of testing services for SARS-CoV-2 infection. Health care workers and other front liners are regular clients of these laboratories or clinics that provide either rapid antigen tests or reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing.

When my family went to the Calabarzon region and “staycationed” at a Batangas resort just before the “NCR plus bubble” was announced by the IATF last month, we had to undergo the nasopharyngeal swab test as required by the Department of Tourism and the resort management.

Our swab test provider was UC Biosciences Inc., with licensed doctors and registered nurses administering the procedure using medical devices from Singapore and South Korea. The results came out on the same day and all of us tested negative. For inquiries, email Carol Demafeliz at [email protected].

Many companies require swab tests for their employees who are deployed in the field while government agencies have also mandated such testing especially for air and sea travel. Lately, the Philippine Red Cross started offering COVID-19 tests with the use of saliva as an alternative specimen for RT-PCR testing.

Surprisingly, the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed the importation and distribution of saliva antigen rapid test kits in the market, whereas manufacturers and importers of the so-called “wonder drug” ivermectin are being given a hard time in securing the FDA’s approval.

ECQ or not, some industries will still thrive in the country with the world’s longest community quarantine lockdowns.

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