Traders want to join IATF; Palace says they may join discussions

MANILA. Workers wearing protective suits eat at a restaurant with plastic sheet barriers to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Quezon City on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. (AP)

THE Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the country’s biggest business organization on Thursday, August 20, 2020, bucked quarantine protocols being imposed by the government against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), saying more people would lose their jobs if business activities are not allowed to fully resume.

The group also sought the inclusion of the business sector in the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to enable the policy-making body to come up with a “holistic approach that will make it easier for businesses to resume operation and for workers to return to work”.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Friday, August 21, that any group is welcome to join discussions in the IATF.

He said, however, that the concerns of the business sector are brought up before the IATF by the government’s economic team, whose members regularly attend meetings.

The economic team is composed of the top officials of the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Finance, National Economic and Development Authority, and Department of Budget and Management.

“Officials of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) can therefore serve as resource persons on matters related to trade, business and the economy in the same way that IATF has invited health experts from different medical associations to give their inputs related to their field of expertise,” Roque said in an interview over state television.

In a resolution, the PCCI board of directors urged the government to consult the private sector before coming up with policy recommendations on lockdowns.

PCCI president Benedicto Yujuico said the policies being imposed by the IATF on businesses and workers are not realistic.

He said the directives to wear face shields in the workplace, physical distancing of at least two meters, and the designation of an isolation area of one room for every 200 employees are “simply not realistic in a production line setting”.

He also cited the stringent regulations on public transportation that limit the mobility of workers.

Commuters using public transportation are required to wear face masks and face shields and observe physical distancing.

Other concerns that PCCI listed are:

  • Policies and regulations imposed by local governments on top of and inconsistent with the IATF regulations;
  • Standards in workplace settings, which PCCI described as impractical;
  • Slow consumer confidence which negatively impacts on sales and revenues; and
  • Cash flow and liquidity

Yujuico said they hoped that the government would recognize the role of the business sector in creating jobs and providing income.

“We are appealing for the inclusion (of) the private sector in the IATF. The IATF will be able to use the on-the-ground experience of the business sector to come up with a holistic approach that will make it easier for businesses to resume operation and for workers to return to work,” he added.

Yujuico warned that the longer businesses are not allowed to operate fully, “the more protracted the recession that will follow and the more people will be permanently out of jobs”.

The Philippines technically slipped into a recession after two consecutive quarters of economic decline.

The Philippine Statistics Authority said the country’s gross domestic product declined by 0.7 percent in the first quarter and plunged by 16.5 percent in the second quarter, when all businesses were forced to close except those engaged in essential goods and services.

President Rodrigo Duterte first imposed stringent community quarantine measures in Metro Manila and Luzon in mid-March in a bid to contain Covid-19 transmission.

Other local government units across the country followed in late March. Community quarantine restrictions, although less stringent, remain in the entire country.

Coronavirus infections have been increasing by an average of 4,233 per day in the last 20 days as more businesses were allowed to operate.

As of August 20, the total case count in the country reached 178,022, including 61,025 active cases, 114,114 recoveries, and 2,883 deaths. (Marites Villamor-Ilano/SunStar Philippines)


SunStar website welcomes friendly debate, but comments posted on this site do not necessarily reflect the views of the SunStar management and its affiliates. SunStar reserves the right to delete, reproduce or modify comments posted here without notice. Posts that are inappropriate will automatically be deleted.

Forum rules:

Do not use obscenity. Some words have been banned. Stick to the topic. Do not veer away from the discussion. Be coherent. Do not shout or use CAPITAL LETTERS!