Business to heed gov’t ECQ decision

Published July 30, 2021, 4:07 PM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Previously divided over calls for hard lockdown, the business sector now stand behind Malacanang decision to return to hard lockdown to avert the possibility of surge in Delta variant cases in the country.

“Business is against lockdown because it is disruptive and harmful to the economy. But if the Department of Health finds it necessary due to unexpected surge of the delta variant then business will comply,” said the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry in a statement.

PCCI, however, said the biggest challenge is to regain the stalled momentum, sustain the recovery trajectory, keep the workers, and meet fixed operating expenses. 

As such, the largest business organization in the country urged that the lockdown period is definitive and lifted at the earliest possible time.

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez also said the imposition of hard lockdown is inevitable.

“Although the economy and MSMEs cannot bear another lockdown, the ECQ may be inevitable so as to remove any possibility of an uncontrollable surge like what happened in other countries that claimed thousands of lives,” said Lopez a day after Malacanang backtracked from its position against the implementation of a hard lockdown in the National Capital Region and nearby provinces.

Lopez did not agree with the other economic managers led by Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, Presidential Adviser on Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion and some business leaders, who favored a hard two-week lockdown. Lopez even thanked the president for heeding his and other experts call against ECQ as he explained the economic repercussion of a two-week hard lockdown. He said a 2-week hard lockdown would mean salary losses of P30 billion and potential closure of 18 percent of establishments. During the ECQ in March this year, he said, 1.8 million workers went jobless.

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez. (ALFRED FRIAS/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO FILE PHOTO)

However, during their meeting on Thursday, Lopez said, “The numbers presented showed increasing  Delta variant cases, especially in some cities in NCR. Some cities in NCR reported cases almost doubled in one day.”  

In agreeing with Malacanang, Lopez said they have to hear advise from health experts, balancing it with the economy and livelihood.  

“We shall continue to monitor closely these cases and their trajectory in the next seven days, which is also to give time for the people and small businesses to adjust before the scheduled 2 week ECQ to start on August 6. We bear in mind the need to balance the economy and livelihood,” he said.

During the two-week hard lockdown, Lopez said the dominant portion of the production sector – agri – industry -services will be allowed to continue to operate to save jobs and income.    

He also assured the public of  adequate supply of goods in supermarkets and groceries because agriculture and manufacturing activities shall continue.

“We thus encourage everyone to remain vigilant and work together with your government in preventing the further spread of  COVID-19, especially the Delta variant,” he said.

Henry Lim Bon Liong, president of the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and

Industry Inc. who also agreed to a 2-week hard lockdown, thanked President Duterte for heeding the call to impose a decisive 2-week hard lockdown. 

Lim reiterated that the 2-week sacrifice would hopefully help protect the Philippines from Delta, and ensure that the 4th quarter can be stronger, paving the way for an uninterrupted economic recovery.

“This is hard but necessary. Let us please cooperate, make this work,” he said even as he appealed for government and the private sector to help the MSMEs by buying their products online. 

Meantime, the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) said that Malacanang’s announcement on the return to ECQ was not entirely unexpected given the apparent spread of the Delta  variant and the potential for a devastating surge similar to what Indonesia is experiencing.

While this will further hurt our struggling businesses, MAP expects government to mitigate the damage by increasing vaccine supply and ensuring that vaccination programs continue even under ECQ, as this is really the solution to controlling the pandemic.  

MAP further urge the government to relax rules to allow all sectors to avail of vaccination, specially those given by the local government units, which are not covered by Covax rules.

The group also pushed for a thorough contact tracing to identify and isolate all cases to stop the spread of the virus. “Otherwise, we will likely continue to see surges in the future, and we cannot afford more lockdowns,” MAP concluded.

Likewise, the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX) welcomed the decision of Malacanang as a pre-emptive move against the surge of COVID-19 cases that will wreak more havoc to the economy and our people. “Short-term sacrifice for long-term gain, so to speak,” the group said.

Having said that, FINEX strongly urged that the importation of more vaccines be treated with urgency and that an aggressive and efficient vaccination program and effective contact tracing be given heightened attention especially in areas that substantially contribute to the economy.

The group also urged its members to leave no stone unturned in taking care of their employees during the ECQ period as they graciously did in the early part of the pandemic.

FINEX further urged everyone to do their part by availing of the opportunity to get vaccinated and adhering to the health protocols for their own good and that of their families and the country in general.