Biz groups want to open up economy, shift to alert level 1
MANILA, Philippines — Business groups on Monday said that they are in favor of placing Metro Manila and other provinces under Alert Level 1, allowing all businesses to operate in full capacity.
Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry President George Barcelon and Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry President Henry Lim Bon Liong all agreed the country should open up the economy and downgrade the quarantine status to Alert Level 1.
During the online Pandesal forum, Concepcion said the government really has “no choice” but to open up the economy to ensure that it will grow and avoid the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio exceeding 60 percent, which Concepcion said is a “red flag.”
“We have to make use of this time while cases are down to really push the economy to move up,” Concepcion said.
He further explained that ensuring a low debt-to-GDP ratio will allow the country to maintain its investment rating, allowing it to borrow money at a lower cost.
“It will take a while for us to pay down the debt if our economy is sluggish, and that is why we are really pushing all sectors to open up. It is about time we open up,” said Concepcion.
Concepcion also said that all establishments must now open with restaurants able to either operate at full capacity.
“That is how I believe the Philippines should move, open up everything, open up the casinos, open up every business out there that remains closed that is very important,” he said.
For Barcelon’s part, he expressed that he was also open to downgrading the alert level but stressed that all sectors must be fully prepared for it and underscored the importance of mobility.
“What’s important is the mobility side for the commuter. Once we lower down to level 1, there will be more people working. And then retail establishments will be more patronized by people going to the malls,” said Barcelon.
“That’s one factor the government has to look into, to make sure there is enough public transportation,” he added.
Liong, on the other hand, said that he believes the government will lift alert level 2 in Metro Manila as early as the end of February.
“I think there is no businessman that will not support Alert Level 1. In fact, I think the government will really lift Alert Level 2 as early as the end of February,” Liong said.
“And as the level of the Omicron virus has gone real down we still have to be cautious, not over-cautious, but cautious enough to contain the virus and even lift up the economy,” he added.
Metro Manila mayors are scheduled to meet on Tuesday to talk about the possibility of placing the capital region under Alert Level 1.
As of Feb. 21, active infections of COVID-19 nationwide 58,657 of 3,653,526 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Deaths, meanwhile, number 55,763 in total.
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