Some 1 million employees cannot still return to work even if the National Capital Region (NCR) Plus bubble is now under a modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) status, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez said.
According to Lopez, the DTI estimated 1.5 million workers lost their jobs during the two-week ECQ higher than the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) of 250,000.
Lopez said that of the 1.5 million workers, only 500,000 are able to return to work starting this week while the majority of one million are still out of work. This is because some essential and non-essential sectors are still not allowed to operate fully.
For instance, restaurants are still not allowed to open for dine-in customers except for outdoor dine-in at 50 percent capacity. Restaurants though can continue with their delivery services.
Essential sector such as food, food manufacturing and personal care producers are allowed to operate. Non-essential manufacturing are allowed at 50 percent capacity only.
Other sectors under the negative list include outdoor contact sports, personal care services like salon and spa, and entertainment and amusement parks.
Website link for the Comparative Matrix ECQ vs. MECQ: https://iatf.doh.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Comparative-Matrix-ECQ-vs-MECQ.pdf
Lopez, however, that based on his discussions, many micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) especially the restaurants would just like to remain closed till April 30, the expected date for the NCR Plus bubble to be downgraded further to a more relaxed general community quarantine.
This is because only a small number of restaurants have outdoor dining services as most are located inside malls.
He expressed hope for COVID cases will go down with the strict implementation of health protocols, additional healthcare facilities and faster contact tracing.
Lopez also cited of proposals to extend assistance to SMEs like providing subsidies for operating expenses. SMEs have also suggested to temporarily suspend loan payments, extension of loan terms from banks, and deferment of rents.
He said these suggestions can be considered as these have been provided in the Bayanihan Act 2, which has also been extended to this year.
In addition, the government’s micro lending arm SB Corp. still has funds to lend to MSMEs with no interest and collateral-free. Of the P10 billion (P6 billion for tourism and P4 billion for other MSMEs) allotted to SB Corp., P3.3 billion loans have been released to 25,000 applicants.