Manufacturers back easing of lockdowns in eco centers

    Upskill. Ramon Lopez, DTI Secretary, said the Philippines is on the right track to upskill and reskill its workforce, integrate production systems, and encourage innovative small and medium enterprises and startups.

    The Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) has backed the Department of Finance’s (DOF) call to ease quarantine measures in Metro Manila and other major urban centers, while strictly observing health and safety protocols, to accelerate the reopening of the economy following an over three-month standstill.

    An employers group meanwhile cited results of a general survey conducted by government which showed 8 million or 17.7 percent of total workforce have been rendered jobless when 52 percent of businesses closed down permanently and partially due to the lockdowns.

    FPI, the umbrella organization of over 100 manufacturing companies said further relaxing of mobility restrictions in Metro Manila, the Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon (Calabarzon) region and other urban hubs will help sustain economic recovery, as seen in the higher import volumes in June.

    Metro Manila and the provinces of Laguna, Cavite and Rizal remain under general community quarantine (GCQ) while Batangas and Quezon are under modified GCQ until July 31. Collectively, these regions account for 67 percent of the economy.

    “(These) main economic centers like Metro Manila, Calabarzon and other urban areas should move to looser quarantine restrictions as soon as possible to reopen the economy, with the precaution that those factories and barangays with COVID-19 (new coronavirus disease 2019) cases be dealt with more strictly,” the FPI said in a letter addressed to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID). A copy of the letter was sent to DOF Secretaery Carlos Dominguez III, with details shared by the DOF in a statement yesterday.

    Dominguez earlier cited the need to strike a “reasonable balance between safeguarding public health and restarting the economy” on the back of a healthcare system better equipped to slow community transmission of COVID-19.

    Jesus Arranza, FPI chairman, said the lockdowns “affected 75 percent of the economy, shrank gross domestic product by 0.2 percent in the first quarter and its extension starting April resulted in a 15-year high unemployment rate.”

    The FPI also recommended to the IATF-EID to start allowing the use of road-worthy public utility jeepneys (PUJs) as these are “much safer than airconditioned versions in reducing the viral load during transport, with a caveat that both the drivers and passengers wear masks, in addition to (following) other health safety measures.”

    “This is very critical because the ordinary workers could not report for work since this (mode of) transportation is not available particularly in the economic centers,” the FPI said.

    The organization also asked government ease movement restrictions in the countryside to reenergize the agriculture and forestry sectors, “which are hardly affected by COVID-19 due to the open space and low viral loads.”

    “This will help to revive our agriculture and forestry enterprises in the countryside, which more often than not are supplying the companies in the main economic centers,” the FPI said.

    It also urged the government to strictly implement Commonwealth Act 138 and Administrative Order No. 227 to promote the preferential use of Filipino labor, domestic materials and locally produced goods not only among consumers, but also in the state’s procurement of supplies and materials

    Meanwhile, the Employers Confederation of the Philippines said restrictions in dine in, personal service enterprises make business operation unviable and that prolonged restrictions will eventually lead to additional business closures and unemployment-poverty
    The group said hundreds of thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) awaiting repatriation will lead to more unemployment.

    The Small Business Corp.(SB Corp.) has launched a P100-million loan facility for repatriated OFWs affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Under Helping the Economy Recover thru OFW Enterprise Start-ups, OFWs may borrow a minimum of P10,000 up to maximum of P100,000 free of interest and collateral. A service fee of 6 percent will be charged to loans with 24 months payment term and 8 percent for loans with 36 months payment terms inclusive of 12 months grace period. (A. Celis and I.Isip)