By Irma Isip and Jocelyn Montemayor
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez believes easing restrictions in Metro Manila and nearby provinces can help restore half of what was lost to the economy, putting the country on track to its goal of growing to 6.5 to 7.5 percent this year.
In a radio interview, Lopez said coupled with the easing of age restrictions, a modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) status for the National Capital Region will help bring back the economy to its growth path before the pandemic of more than 6 percent.
Lopez said only around 8 to 10 areas are now placed under GCQ including Metro Manila and nearby areas, which account for 50 percent of the total economy.
While the earlier plan to allow those aged 10 years and above to go out has been postponed in view of the new variant of the coronavirus, Lopez said monitoring showed the number of cases has not spiked as feared.
Lopez’ statements sounded off calls by Socio-economic Planning Secretary Karl Chua that NCR may be ready for a much loser quarantine status by March.
Lopez chided critics for alleged lack of plan of government in combatting the challenges posed by the pandemic.
“We were one of the fastest growing economies before the pandemic… (but) if you look (at it), we are slowly recovering quarter-on-quarter although we are not back to 5 percent growth as some sectors are not yet open,” Lopez said.
An MGCQ status will allow for the further opening of tourism and the reopening of non-essential services like entertainment and live events which are also served by micro, small and medium enterprises.
Lopez cited some of the achievements accomplished before the pandemic struck, which he said, critics should be thankful for: Poverty rate reduction target of 16 percent for 2022 achieved in 2019 and over six percent growth until 2019.
In what could be a sign of recovery, the November 21 to 25 survey of the Social Weather Station showed joblessness slowed to 27.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020 (estimated at 12.7 million), down from 39.5 percent in September (estimated 23.7 million), and from the record-high 45.5 percent in July (estimated 27.3 million).
This, however, is higher than the 17.5 percent joblessness (estimated 7.9 million) recorded in December 2019 and brings the average joblessness rating for 2020 to a record-high of 37.4 percent, up from the previous highest average of 28.8 percent in 2012 and the 19.8 percent average in 2019.