Higher capacity, more industries may be allowed

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    DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez (photo from PTV-4)

    The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) may allow the opening up of more sectors or increase the capacity of those already open even without moving to the modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).

    DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez told the Laging Handa virtual press conference yesterday the move will be tackled by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) in consideration to the call of the economic team led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez on Wednesday to move Metro Manila and Calabarzon, which account for 67 percent of the economy, to MGCQ.

    “The economic sector agencies support the approach that if (an area) is ready is for it to be placed under MGCQ. But as we have observed even under GCQ, we were able to reopen sectors, so we just have to enhance (by) for example increase the percentage of the capacity from 30 to 40 or 50 without moving MGCQ,” Lopez said.

    This was the case of barber shops/salons and dine-in restaurants which were allowed to open ahead of the lifting of the level of quarantine.

    He said the move had a significant impact since these employ 2.1 million workers combined, Lopez said DTI is pushing for an earlier MGCQ and is working on increasing the current operating capacity as well as the reopening of more businesses but noted these moves should still be backed by data on the cases of infections and supported by effective health protocols

    According to Lopez, industries in Category 4 like travel agencies which remain closed under GCQ , have requested to reopen to process refund requests of cancelled trips.

    Lopez said DTI will propose to the IATF to also consider expanding the services of barber shops and salons which are now limited to basic haircuts if they can assure fast turnover of customers inside the establishments.

    But Lopez assured 95 percent of the sectors have opened under GCQ and only the non-essentials have remained closed.

    He added 95 provinces and highly-urbanized cities are now under MGCQ.

    “We all hope eventually we move to MGCQ because we will open the rest of the 5 percent ,” said Lopez.

    PEZA zones affected

    Charito Plaza, director-general of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) supported Dominguez’s caII to place Metro Manila and Calabarzon under MGCQ “as quickly as possible” to boost the country’s economy.

    Most export-oriented companies registered with PEZA are located in these areas.

    “We cannot anymore afford to place these areas under GCQ because it will further impact the economy and in effect, grievously affect our countrymen,” said Plaza said

    Ease travel ban

    The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) meanwhile in a statement joined airline operators to ease international business travel restrictions and allow selected local air travel.

    PCCI urged the (IATF-EID and the Cabinet Economic Cluster to heed the petition of the Air Carriers Association of the Philippines (ACAP) to gradually phase out the quota for international passenger arrival, resume scheduled international flights for business travel, allow selected local air travel, explore the possibility of entering into bilateral arrangements with selected countries to fast track processing of non-leisure travels, and re-open select tourist destinations in the country to international tourism.

    “A status quo could prove fatal not only to the airline operators but to airline suppliers and the whole air transport supply reliant on continuing to deliver new equipment and supplying spare parts and maintenance services, as well as enterprises, a number of which are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that provision each flight – manufacturers and/or suppliers of food products, cutlery, sanitary paper, water, blankets, cleaning and maintenance services, etc.  These SME suppliers of goods and services are dependent on the operation of the aircrafts to remain in business,” said PCCI Benedicto Yujuico

    To support the continued operation of local airlines, PCCI endorsed the proposal of ACAP for the IATF-EID to extend a preferential policy for Philippine carriers undertaking direct or connecting flights in international airports in the country in the allocation of quota for non-leisure travelers.

    “This Philippine air carriers-first allocation should be extended to foreign business travelers once restriction on business travel is lifted,” Yujuico added.

    The aviation industry is among the hardest hit by the more than three months of various stages of community quarantines declared all over the country.

    The International Air Transport Association has estimated the combined losses of Philippine carriers and tourism at $.48 billion, with job losses potentially reaching 548,300 this year alone.  As of this writing, the Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and AirAsia Philippines have laid off an estimated 760 workers.