Put PH under less restrictive MGCQ to revive economy, Neda chief advises Duterte
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines should be put under a less restrictive modified general community quarantine to revive its ailing economy.
That was the advice that Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua gave in his presentation to President Rodrigo Duterte, which was aired late Monday night.
Chua, the acting chief of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), explained that the less restrictive quarantine would allow industries previously prevented from operating by a strict lockdown to reopen.
“We need to shift as soon as possible to MGCG for the entire Philippines — if possible starting March 1, 2021 — to address hunger or the high rate of hunger among Filipinos,” Chua said in Filipino.
According to him, the quarantine restrictions put in place since March 2020 has caused a total income of P1.04 trillion that year. He pointed out that, on average, that translated to P2.8 billion in salaries lost — or an annual income loss of P23,000 per worker.
While a lot of areas are now under an MGCQ, several business hubs like Metro Manila and Cebu City are still under a general community quarantine (GCQ).
Recently, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases allowed the operation of some tourism areas while loosening restrictions on establishments, like movie houses, to allow public gatherings.
Under an MGCQ, more establishments would be allowed to operate again.
Chua pointed out that the worst hit by the pandemic were workers in sectors that were not allowed to operate under the more restrictive quarantine levels.
He added, however, that a less restrictive quarantine would not abandon health protocols in total disregard of the pandemic.
During the holiday season last December, he noted, people went out to meet their relatives, and yet there was no upsurge in COVID-19 cases.
“So our recommendation is for us to balance everything,” Chua told Duterte.
Chua cited a Pulse Asia survey conducted last September that showed 39 percent of Filipinos were in favor of balancing efforts to revive the economy and control the virus. Then, he added, that figure rose to 73 percent in November, by which time the hunger rate had risen.
“So we’re not ust saying that the economy should be opened and let’s not bother with Covid cases. We need [to address] both,” he said.
It was not the first time Chua moved for the easing of quarantine restrictions: Last Feb. 2, he said that the public should brace for the easing of quarantine restrictions by March, in anticipation of the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines.
Currently, the economy is on a long downturn, with Duterte himself admitting it in a previous briefing.
Due to the pandemic, the Philippines posted its worst year-on-year gross domestic product numbers, as the economy shrunk by 9.5 percent.
It was the worst slump that the Philippines has experienced since shortly after the end of the Second World War.
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