The business community is hoping to nurture the gains achieved when the economy fully opened up several months ago, as it welcomes the government policy on granular lockdown instead of the hard lockdown that were previously imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the domestic economy stands to lose billions of pesos while Metro Manila, the country’s economic center, and its four adjoining provinces are under a more stringent COVID-19 Alert Level 3, the Duterte administration’s economic managers said.
The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) has welcomed the new developments in the light of rapid infection rate and the entry of the Omicron variant
Newly-elected PCCI president George Barcelon said the no-lockdown policy would provide stability to business and sustain its recovery process.
“We are happy that the government is no longer imposing hard lockdowns as a safeguard measure against increasing Omicron cases. Otherwise, it would be difficult again for our economy to recover if businesses will be shut down,” Barcelon said.
Barcelon also reiterated the request of PCCI to be part of the IATF composition to ensure that issues of the business sector are properly relayed and considered.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said during the inaugural call of the new PCCI board that the granular quarantine model may be implemented not only in Metro Manila but nationwide, through the local government units (LGUs) that will issue the implementing guidelines.
He disclosed the IATF was also considering the implementation of home-based antigen testing as an added protection for the asymptomatic.
Test kits should be readily available and accessible in the drugstores, Lopez added.
He assured the business community that the government was doing its best to ensure the safety of its people and country.
“With a high level of the vaccination program and medical treatment already put in place, we may have to change some protocols toward favoring the vaccinated instead of implementing lockdowns,” Lopez said, adding that the unvaccinated individuals will have limited mobility compared to the vaccinated.
The Development Budget Coordination Committee—composed of the secretaries of Socioeconomic Planning, Finance, and Budget—said it was closely monitoring the impact of the elevated number of COVID-19 cases, especially in the National Capital Region and its neighboring provinces.
“We estimate that the shift from Alert level 2 to Alert level 3 for NCR plus, which includes Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal, will result in a Gross Value Added (GVA) loss of about P3 billion per week,” the DBCC said.
An economic productivity metric, GVA is a measure of the value of goods and services produced in a country or sector.
The government placed the NCR, Bulacan, Cavite, and Rizal under Alert Level 3 until January 15, while Laguna is under the same alert level starting January 7.
Fourteen more cities and provinces were placed under Alert Level 3 starting January 9 until 15 due to rising number of COVID-19 cases.
Under Alert Level 3, several establishments will be allowed to operate at 30% indoor venue capacity only for fully vaccinated individuals and 50% outdoor venue capacity, provided that all employees are fully vaccinated.
Face-to-face classes, contact sports, funfairs or “perya,” and casinos are among the activities and establishments that are prohibited under Alert Level 3. Work at government offices is limited to 60% of their onsite capacity.
“While this may delay our goal of shifting to Alert Level 1, we believe that this is a temporary setback and is a necessary adjustment
in view of the new COVID variant,” the economic managers said.
“As we previously said, we are in a better position to manage possible spikes—we have enough vaccines and funding for booster shots; we have increased hospital capacity; we now resort to granular lockdowns; and, from all indications, the Omicron variant results in less severe cases, especially to those who are fully vaccinated,” they added.
As of January 5, the DBCC noted that a total of 110.9 million doses have been rolled out. Of the said number, 57.3 million and 51.1 million doses were administered as the first dose and complete dose, respectively, while 2.5 million doses were administered as booster shots.
“Moreover, with the recent signing of the Fiscal Year 2022 General Appropriations Act (GAA), which is the country’s main fiscal stimulus,
and was crafted with COVID response and recovery in mind, we expect to accelerate government spending and help the economy bounce back,” the DBCC said.
“The FY 2022 GAA will prioritize programs, activities, and projects that seek to sustain the administration’s efforts to effectively respond to the challenges brought about by the pandemic.”
“Alongside this, the extended validity of the FY 2021 GAA will serve as an added fiscal stimulus that will support NGAs (national government agencies) and LGUs (local government units) in continuing to accelerate the implementation of COVID-19 recovery measures,” it added.
The economic managers noted the approved 2022 national budget and the extension of the 2021 GAA “will help strengthen the country’s resilience against the emergence of new variants and future economic shocks.”
“The economic prospects for 2022 remain promising, but we urge everyone to play their part in the recovery by getting vaccinated, availing of booster shots, and strictly adhering to the minimum public health standards to help support the gradual and safe reopening of the economy,” the DBCC said.