DTI cautious of prolonged ECQ

    Even as basic services remain available and essential industries are open during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) expressed hope the ECQ in the National Capital Region (NCR) Plus will not be prolonged so business and work can fully resume at the soonest possible time

    At the Laging Handa briefing yesterday, DTI Undersecretary Ireneo Vizmonte said even under general community quarantine , there was not enough jobs available for Filipinos as companies continue to suffer.

    This was  Vizmonte’s response when asked  employers and businesses can still afford a one-week ECQ from March 29 to April with businesses limited to essential goods and services.

    During ECQ, more businesses will be affected.

    Vizmonte said DTI has made sure that the Inter Agency Task Force allowed food manufacturing industries to operate at 100 percent to ensure sufficient supply. Also allowed full capacity are production  of essential products, particularly hygiene, and daily needs and pharmaceuticals,  construction as well as exports so they can fulfill orders.

    Also allowed to operate are essential activities like water refilling supplies,  food commissaries, eateries but limited to delivery services, public and private financial providers that provide social amelioration channels, IT-business process management firms, and export-oriented firms.

    Media establishments are allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity. Also allowed to operate with skeletal workforce are dental and optometry clinics, veterinary, bank transfers pawnshops,  armored vehicles, and credit cooperatives and many more.

    The capital markets, banks, health insurance providers, energy and power firms, telcos, and Internet service providers, cable and TV, airline, aircraft maintenance, funeral and embalming services, religious services (priests, rabbis and pastors), printing establishments allowed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue, security personnel,  repair maintenance of machineries, and real estate activities limited to leasing only.

    No grace period

    The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) yesterday said it shall continue to provide essential services amid the ECQ declared by the government which started yesterday and will end on April 4.

    However, BSP services will not be available on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, in observance of the Holy Week.

    But Benjamin Diokno, BSP Governor, clarified the implementation of the 30-day grace period for the payment of loans which took effect during the same month last year “ceased to apply effective 01 June 2020.”

    “The Omnibus Guidelines with Amendments as of March 28, 2021 issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases does not operate to extend the 30-day grace period provided for under Republic Act No. 11469,” Diokno said.

    He, however, said  the BSP “strongly encourages BSP-supervised financial institutions (BSFIs) to continue to provide relief measures to its clients by renewing, restructuring, or extending the terms of the loans, among others, based on their continuing assessment of their cash flows.”

    Diokno  said the BSP is also coordinating with the banking industry on the continuous delivery of banking services and urges all banking personnel, especially frontliners, to carry out necessary protocols against COVID-19.

    “The central nank encourages the use of digital payment as this allows the public to carry out needed financial transactions safely amid the health crisis,” Diokno said.

    “The BSP will continue to closely monitor the impact of the pandemic on the financial industry to promptly address any emerging risk and to support a sustainable economic recovery,” Diokno said.

    The BSP has granted prudential relief measures to BSFIs to enable them to continue to provide financial services and support households and business amid the crisis.

    Utilities unhampered

    The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System-Regulatory Office (MWSS-RO) yesterday urged  local government units to allow meter readers of Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Co. Inc. to continue their on-site water meter reading and billing operations during ECQ.

    This will  enable concessionaires to bill their customers based on actual water consumption and help minimize the possibility of billing complaints  if bills will only be based on average consumption.

    The MWSS-RO also directed both concessionaires to ensure strict compliance of their meter readers and other personnel with the prescribed health and safety protocols in the conduct of read-and-bill.

    Maynilad and Manila Water were directed to suspend all service disconnection activities for the duration of the ECQ period and to ensure the availability of an uninterrupted 24-hour water supply within their service areas.

    Local telecom firms have reassured customers of continued service during ECQ.

    PLDT and its wireless unit Smart Communications, Inc (Smart) said both network operations and customer support facilities will continue to serve customers.

    Repairs and installation teams are also ready to serve customers although their mobility is subject to restrictions imposed by respective local government units and the Interagency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

    Customers are also urged to visit PLDT Home’s website for information on how to troubleshoot their own connection at home.

    In addition, PLDT has expanded support to increase free SMS broadcast services for the Philippine Red Cross’ contact tracing mobile app, RC143, and extending free data usage for downloading and using the app for Smart subscribers as part of initiatives to augment government contact tracing.

    RC143 enables users to determine their levels of exposure to COVID-19 based on their movements and location after the user agrees and confirms his consent. This information is collected through the PRC database that determines individuals who have come into close proximity with COVID-positive cases. The Smart Messaging Suite platform allows the RC143 app to send one-time passwords and alerts via SMS through the Soprano API.

    Meanwhile, Globe Telecom Inc. also assured its customers that it will continuously deliver service support despite the new lockdown.

    Globe said it is keeping its digital channels operational 24/7 like GCash, GlobeOne, and Globe At Home apps so customers have access to their needs from replenishing load, tracking of data and promos, quick troubleshooting of issues, even escalation of customer service concerns, while remaining safe at home.

    For broadband service repairs requiring onsite visit and assistance, Globe At Home’s customer field service personnel are on standby to support and assist customers.

    Globe’s 57 stores across the ECQ areas namely in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, and Laguna will be open to customers meanwhile, nine Globe Stores will be closed namely: Fishermall, Quezon City, SM City Masinag, Antipolo City, Valenzuela Town Center,  Cash & Carry, Makati,  Market Market,   Shangri-la Plaza, Mandaluyong City, Starmall, San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan,  SM City, San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan and Central Mall, Dasmarinas

    Fiber broadband provider Converge ICT Solutions Inc. said it has tripled its customer service personnel and ramped-up its install and repair teams with the addition of over 400 service vehicles since the pandemic broke out last year to meet the surge in demand for internet services and the expansion of its subscriber base.

    In compliance with the recent IATF guidelines, however, Converge business centers in the ECQ areas will be operating at skeleton capacity and shorter hours for customers who absolutely needed to visit them for their internet service. The usual strict observance of health and safety protocols will be enforced.

    PITX is open

    The country’s first landport, Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX) ,  will not suspend terminal operations during ECQ since public transportation is allowed to operate and exempted from curfew imposed at National Capital Region (NCR) Plus Bubble.

    “Most of our passengers at PITX are part of the workforce; they are essential workers who need public transportation to be available so they can earn for a living, especially in this time of pandemic. We’ll stay open to be of assistance,” said Jason Salvador, PITX corporate affairs and government relations head.

    To ensure strict compliance, PITX requires everyone entering the terminal to bring a valid ID and prepare supporting documents such certificate of employment and quarantine pass for presentation upon entry.

    For public vehicles, only 50 percent maximum capacity is allowed buses – one seat apart, UV express – two passengers per row, jeepneys and shuttle service –one seat apart.

    Provincial buses are allowed to travel, provided that it carries only APORs as passengers, and that these are point-to-point trips.

    PITX is operated by MWM Terminals Inc. under a 35-year Build-Transfer-Operate contract. (Irma Isip, Jimmy Calapati, Jed Macapagal and Myla Iglesias)