Duterte to study proposal to ease restrictions by March
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte will study the proposal of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) to place the whole country under the less restrictive modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) by March to boost the economy amid the pandemic, his spokesperson said on Tuesday.
At an online press briefing in Davao City, Harry Roque said Mr. Duterte was looking into the recommendations made by acting Neda chief Karl Kendrick Chua and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), adding that Cabinet officials would also discuss these in a meeting on Feb. 22.
During a presentation to the President on Monday night, Chua called for the downgrading of the country’s quarantine status to MGCQ on top of other proposals that had already been approved by the IATF.
He said the government should implement a policy balancing its fight against the spread of COVID-19, citing the need to “shift in the soonest possible time to MGCQ for the entire Philippines to address the high rate of Filipinos going hungry.”
The government’s quarantine restrictions since March have resulted in a total income loss of P1.04 trillion for 2020, with an average daily loss of P2.8 billion, he said.
Citing a Pulse Asia survey in November, Chua said 73 percent of respondents believed the government must find a balance between opening of the economy and controlling the spread of the virus.
He noted that from October and throughout the holiday season, COVID-19 cases did not significantly increase despite the easing of restrictions on economic activities.
The government should also open more public transport routes with proper safeguards to help workers, he said, adding that public transport capacity should be expanded from 50 to 75 percent.
Interprovincial bus operation must be augmented and bike lanes must also be set up to help workers using alternative forms of transportation.
The government should also allow more people to go out by expanding the age group allowed in public places, but with corresponding safeguards, Chua said.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, however, said placing the country under MGCQ to allow the reopening of more businesses would only have “marginal impact” in reviving the economy.
“To be frank with you, even if other places of business are reopened, if we are unable to vaccinate our health-care workers, we will just have to reimpose restrictions once our facilities get overwhelmed and our front-liners start getting sick again,” he said in a statement.
“I do not disagree with the proposal to reopen more sectors, but its impact will be very marginal compared to expediting vaccination,” Salceda added.
According to the House tax chief, people’s “spending power is depressed because we did not give the same kind of spending money that other countries delivered to their populations.”
“Opening is one thing, getting customers to spend is another,” Salceda said.
But he proposed to fully open the transportation sector, citing that “it defied logic then to restrict its supply.”
“Public transportation complements important but strictly [in-person] sectors such as manufacturing because if workers cannot go to their workplaces, no output can be produced for such sectors,” he added.
—With a report from Nestor Corrales INQ
The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link .
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.