Economy ‘lonely voice’ in IATF—Dominguez

President Duterte’s chief economic manager said the government needs a new approach to rein in coronavirus cases and revive the economy as lockdown orders no longer provide benefits to the country.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), the government's policy-making body in addressing the pandemic, should start moving towards “rational approach."

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III

While Dominguez is part of the IATF, the finance chief admitted during a virtual Senate hearing Wednesday, Sept. 8, that he is among the “lonely voices” calling for the inter-agency body to ease quarantine restrictions for sake of economy.

“Sometimes in the IATF we are a lonely voice of trying to put rationality, trying to convince people that, you know, the idea of lockdowns don't really work for the entire community,” Dominguez said. “I think we are a trio or a quartet of lonely voices there.”

Among the rational moves suggested by Dominguez to the IATF was the proposal brought up by several business groups which is to incentivize fully vaccinated people by relaxing restrictions on certain activities.

“I agree that, you know vaccinated people should be provided more mobility than others. In fact, I have asked my colleagues, my like minded colleagues in the IATF in the next meeting, to suggest that we open more the economy.”

Presidential adviser for entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion has been pushing for the implementation of “bakuna bubbles” or pockets of micro-herd immunity among closed groups, such as homes and workplaces.

While Dominguez supports “bakuna bubbles,” he said the private sector should also conduct regular COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.

“We open more the economy, but require the businesses, particularly the larger businesses to provide weekly testing and tracing and move towards rational approach to managing the containment of the virus,” the finance chief said.

“And then, of course.... vaccinate vaccinate and continue vaccinating, because that is the only solution that we can see at the moment,” he added.

On Tuesday, the economic managers, composed of heads of the Department of Finance (DOF), National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), as well as Department of Budget and Management (DBM), said that COVID-19 may become endemic.

As new coronavirus variants continue to emerge, the economic team explained that the COVID-19 illness may become a persistent infection that Filipinos should learn how to live with.

“We cannot allow present and future generations to suffer from the long-term scarring effects of hunger, lack of treatment for non-COVID-19 diseases, and the prolonged suspension of face-to-face classes,” they said.

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, the Philippines has been maintaining community quarantine restrictions of varying levels nationwide. Despite this, the government continued to report record infection numbers.

Because of the lockdowns that limited business activity, the local economy also suffered five consecutive quarters of pandemic-induced contraction.