A TOP official of one of the country’s employers group has decried the prolonged lockdown saying there is “justified need” for the calibrated reopening of the economy.
Employers Confederation of the Philippines (Ecop) president Sergio Ortiz-Luis, Jr. said reopening will save countless jobs and allow business resumption while strict implementation of basic health and safety protocols will help contain the spread of the virus.
He warned that the new lockdown will translate to further huge economic losses. “This will cost billions because we are reversing the growth momentum just for very small impacts,” he said.
The National Capital Region plus four provinces, namely Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal — dubbed as the “NCR Plus” — are under the strictest form of quarantine from March 29 until April 4 due to the rising cases of Covid-19 in these areas. The Department of Health on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, recommended a week-long extension of the enhanced community quarantine in the “NCR Plus” saying that lifting it after April 4 would only result in minimal decline of Covid-19 cases.
Ortiz-Luis, who is also president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (Philexport), said reopening the economy remains the firm stand of business organizations even as Covid-19 cases continue to rise, and Metro Manila and surrounding provinces have been placed in an “NCR Plus” bubble.
The business leader said quarantine restrictions have only served to plunge the Philippines into its worst recession since 1947.
Exports, a major economic driver accounting for some 30 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, continue to nosedive. More than four million Filipinos have lost their jobs.
He reiterated the call for the government to consider the business sector’s proposed “concrete, practical, less costly measures” that aim to help both the government and private sector beat Covid-19.
Business group’s proposal
Among these is to suspend the Data Privacy Act to facilitate contact tracing, reverse the process of finding infected people and promote voluntary disclosures.
“With this information, they can immediately be isolated while the rest of the family and community members can go on with their lives,” he said.
There should also be medical-grade quarantine centers in strategic barangays where those infected can be isolated and treated. This, he added, will lead to confidence building, prevent further infections and allow economic activities to continue.
Ortiz-Luis also cautioned against hyping on the growing number of positive cases, but clarified that this is not meant to downplay the gravity of the situation. Instead, he urged that these data be turned over to the government that will process and use them as needed.
He further underscored the deployment of sufficient public transportation as “a very critical requirement to increase economic activities.”
This was reaffirmed by the results of a Philexport survey in January this year showing that insufficient transportation is the reason many exporters and small businesses are not fully operating, he pointed out.
“We believe that the government should just allow all health-compliant and road-worthy public utility vehicles to ply their routes again. We can attend the modernization program later,” he declared.
Ecop, in a joint statement with three major labor groups, has also espoused service contracting to ensure some take-home pay for transport workers, prevent passenger competition, and “help the government enforce public health standards for the millions of our workers who risk unsafe travel to reach their workplaces.”
Ortiz-Luis also reiterated the business community’s appeal to ease protocols for the procurement by the private sector of Covid-19 vaccines, adding that the private sector could handle this matter faster and better.
On March 29, President Rodrigo Duterte finally gave orders to the government to ensure that private companies can quickly bring in Covid-19 vaccines they secure from manufacturers amid an alarming surge in transmissions. (KOC WITH PHILEXPORT NEWS AND FEATURES)