Trade chief calls for relaxed lockdown in Metro Manila

The Philippine government should place the National Capital Region (NCR) under a more relaxed quarantine restriction so that the economy can crawl its way back to recovery while infection rates are being managed.

According to a report by The Philippine Star, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez agreed with placing the NCR under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), the second strictest lockdown from ECQ at present to buoy business activities and allow more people back to work.

“At the soonest possible time…to the extent we can, we really have to move down at least to MECQ and do more granular lockdowns. That’s our position,” he was quoted as saying.

“If not, every time we have ECQ (enhanced community quarantine), we would have to set a budget for cash aid, there would be a big demand from government and many would not be able to work. It is better to bring back jobs, as long as it is safe,” he added.

The Trade department was against the imposition of ECQ on NCR from August 6 to 20 given its severe impact on the economy.

Prior to the ECQ, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua warned that the Philippines stands to lose P105 billion a week with Metro Manila under ECQ.

He said the number of poor people will surge by up to 177,000, as 444,000 more will be out of work.

With the third round of ECQ, the government allowed more businesses under the essential sector to operate. These include exporters and business process outsourcing which keep the country’s exports growing.

The Trade department was targeting a 15-percent growth in total exports this year, with Lopez optimistic of an economic recovery with the country’s 11.8 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the second quarter of the year.

Eyes now are on continuing reforms that would allow the economy to bounce back from the impact of the pandemic. Among these include amendments to the Public Service Act, Retail Trade Liberalization Act, and Foreign Investment Act.

Lopez said that the DTI was also hopeful for amendments to the Consumer Act of the Philippines and Price Act, which include raising penalties.

Lastly, Lopez said that the DTI has identified the Pandemic Protection Act which called for support to the development of domestic production of medical-related products and promote preference for locally made health care products in government procurement.

Image by Liana Smith Bautista from Pixabay