Business leaders have agreed to the proposed imposition of a 2-week hard lockdown next month to avert the Delta variant from wrecking further havoc, a move that is expected to render a negative third quarter growth but protect the fourth quarter, which is traditionally highest economic contributor.
Henry Lim Bon Liong, president of the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (FFCCCII), George Barcelon, president emeritus of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce Philippines Inc. also agreed with the bold and urgent measures of Presidential Adviser on Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion.
Given the one-week preparation for business, Barcelon expects the lockdown to happen in the second to third weeks next month.
Concepcion, however, could not tell how severe the lockdown will be saying it will depend on the Department of Health, but Lim stressed “a lockdown if not severe is not a lockdown.”
Concepcion explained that the two-week lockdown is more timely given that August is a “ghost month” because it has been traditionally slow or lean month. In addition, the monsoon rains have kept people at home.
The objective of implementing an earlier lockdown rather than wait when the Delta variant, the most virulent COVID-19 variants, is to protect the 4th quarter, traditionally the highest contributor to the economy among the four quarters in a year.
“Our objective is really to ensure a safe and robust fourth quarter especially the fourth quarter, which is stronger quarter every year and very important for struggling enterprises,” he said.
He also expects the economic momentum building up in the fourth quarter because of the Christmas season, plus the start of election spending by that point in time.
If the fourth quarter is not protected, Concepcion stressed it will also impact the expected recovery in 2022.
“We are in imminent danger at this point in time. If the fourth quarter is affected then 2022 will be a write off,” he emphasized.
Other economic booster is the potential Bayanihan fund support materializing in the last quarter.
“So, we expect the 4th quarter to be really robust,” he said.
Both Lim and Barcelon, however, said that another two-week lockdown will have have tremendous impact on the third quarter growth. Both said it will be another negative third quarter GDP.
“This lockdown will mean tremendous loss to our economic recovery but as I’ve said we have to swallow the bitter pill, this is something that need to be done,” he said.
The other bold moves include creation of bubbles in families or households and workplaces and even public bus transportation.
Concepcions urged the creation of immunity bubble, and not wait for the overall herd immunity to happen as targetted by end this year.
“Fortify your home so people around you should get vaccinated,” he said as he urged everyone to encourage others to get vaccinated because vaccines are the only way to solve the economic problem that is caused by health issues.
For the public transportation, he pushed for a public transportation for fully vaccinated passengers only because it is not feasible for bus companies to operate at only 30-50 percent capacity. But a bus company can operate at higher capacity if all passengers are all fully vaccinated.
This is building another bubble for public mass transportation that would lead to an earlier National Capital Region Plus immunity, he said.
Aside from creating small bubbles at homes, workplaces and public buses, Concepcion was also pushing for another next bold move, which is to restrict movement of unvaccinated people and to allow greater mobility for those fully vaccinated.
He raised this as he qualified that there are those who do not want to get vaccinated or the anti-vaccines and there are those willing to be vaccinatedd but are just waiting for their turn or the vaccines.
This as he discussed the issue of reciprocity for those who are fully vaccinated and for not anti-vaccines as he showed disdain for those against the vaccines saying he has not much sympathy for those anti-
vaccines and really hard to convince.
Barcelon, however, disagreed with this mobility restriction for those unvaccinated saying both groups must be given equal treatment.
Barcelon noted that the private sector has been very disciplined in their support to the government action even if there were times when policies were not well planned, but he also noted that after 15 months of the pandemic, he is more confident on the government’s ability. There is now better coordination among government agencies, including law enforcers for smoother implementation of policies than before.
Meantime, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce Philippines Inc. fully supports the call of Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion for urgent and bold moves to immediately quell the spread of the Delta variant to ensure the economy continue to pick up this coming fourth quarter.
In a statement, the Indian business community has urged government to exert all efforts to prevail on those hesitant to get vaccinated to reconsider since their continued refusal to do so will cause severe repercussions in terms of loss of human lives and loss of livelihood and will violate the greatest human right to life.