Editorial: Need to gradually reopen economy

MANY are calling on the national government to ease movement restrictions and gradually reopen the economy.

Backed by data, Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said annual income loss for every worker is P23,000 per worker brought about by the restrictions.

Chua added that they recorded a daily income loss of around P2.8 billion because of quarantine restrictions. Since March 2020, income loss was around P1.04 trillion.

The restrictions have also resulted in many individuals losing their jobs as businesses scale down or shut down to be able to survive the pandemic. In April 2020, unemployment rate was at its peak at 17.6 percent. However, this has improved to 8.7 percent in October 2020 based on preliminary data from Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). This could be due to more areas gradually reopening their economy as restrictions were eased.

"Iyong aking ibabahagi 'yong kailangan po natin mag-shift sana sa lalong madaling panahon to MGCQ (modified general community quarantine) for the entire Philippines. Sana starting March 1, 2021 para i-address po 'yong hunger or 'yong mataas na antas ng mga Pilipino po na nagugutom (We need to place the entire country under MGCQ as soon as possible, hopefully by March 1, to address the hunger among Filipinos)," Chua said in his presentation to President Rodrigo Duterte Monday.

Likewise, it can be noted that business sectors and many working Filipinos are calling on the national government to ease restrictions.

Among the local chief executives in the country, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia has been the most vocal on being against stricter restrictions.

"Lockdowns don't work well. They work against the economy. They disrupt the economy to the detriment of the poor," she said in response to recommendations to place Cebu under lockdown due to virus mutations.

In Davao City, Mayor Sara Z. Duterte-Carpio has also mentioned several times that reverting to stricter quarantine measures will be detrimental to the local economy of the city.

The two local chief executives do make a strong point as to why we can move forward while still managing the pandemic -- we are better prepared now.

Garcia, in a SunStar Cebu report on February 20, said measures are already in place against Covid-19 transmission and local government units across the Province have devised a system to keep infections in check.

"Kung basehan lang nato sa history, kahibalo na ta kung unsay effect sa MGCQ. Karon we are better prepared to expect what will happen kung mag-MGCQ ta, and ma-predict na nato kung pila ka cases ang madungag every day. Tungod sa effects of MGCQ, we know better now because naagian na nato and na-experience na nato," Duterte-Carpio said on February 23.

Davao City has also put in place improved contact tracing, testing, and treatment facilities to manage Covid-19.

Going into stricter quarantine status could further strain the struggling local economy. While there is government assistance like dole-outs, subsidies, and loans, these will only give temporary relief to businesses and the working Filipinos.

There is a need to gradually reopen the economy. An economy that collapses will cause more problems to the country, the government, and the people.

"So ang recommendation po namin ay dapat ibalanse po natin (our recommendation is there should be a balance between the economy and our Covid-19 response)," Chua said.

Given that it will be a while before Filipinos get the Covid-19 vaccine, balancing the economy and the Covid-19 response will play a crucial role for the time being. This will mean that the public will also have to do their part in following the minimum health standards to lower the risk of transmission in communities.

At this point, many of us have somehow adapted to the new normal. It could be the right time to further reopen the economy.


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