Thegovernment aims to recover another 500,000 jobs as it allowed dine-in operations of restaurants at 10 percent capacity and the reopening of beauty salons, nail spas and barbershops at 30 percent capacity in Metro Manila and four other provinces within the NCR Plus bubble that under the extended modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).
“These (personal care) establishments shall only provide services that can accommodate the wearing of face masks at all times by clients and service providers,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said late Thursday evening.
Prior to the revised MECQ guidelines, only al fresco dining as well as takeout and delivery were allowed in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal and Laguna – the areas that comprise NCR Plus.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez earlier made a strong proposal to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to allow indoor dining at a token capacity of 10 to 20 percent and open up as much as 50 percent capacity of the personal care industry.
“We are just after the resurgence of work, but the strict measures on mobility should stay while in MECQ,” Lopez said Thursday.
The dining or restaurant industry is one of the most labor-intensive segments of the economy. A rough estimation would be around 2 million in the National Capital Region, based on the estimates of the Department of Trade and Industry.
The personal care industry composed of salons and barbershops employs an estimated 400,000, on top of spas and other wellness establishments.
“If we are able to further open up these industries, we will be partly addressing the problem of hunger and poverty that has grown dire since the pandemic started,” Lopez said.
While staycations are still not allowed under MECQ, Lopez said the Department of Tourism has the prerogative on how to manage rehiring workers and creating more jobs.
Activities on the negative list like arcade, spa, amusement centers and cinemas will remain shuttered while in the extended MECQ. Indoor sports are still forbidden.
Lopez did not reveal how much of the foregone losses to the economy would be staved off if more workers rejoined the labor force and more establishments were opened up.
To date, approximated losses to the economy was at P300 billion and foregone wages were at P60 billion.
Lopez explained the blanket lockdown was necessary to prevent the virus from spreading out and avoid another surge of infections.
Meanwhile, Trade Undersecretary Ruth Castelo said at least one million workers remained “displaced” in the NCR Plus areas due to the implementation of MECQ.
“Some 1.5 million employees in NCR Plus were displaced during ECQ but 500,000 of them were able to return to their jobs under MECQ,” Castelo said.
In related developments:
• Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said local government units had distributed 67 percent of the P22.9-billion financial aid from the national government to those affected by the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila and four nearby provinces. In Metro Manila, 73.46 percent or over 8.2 million out of a total of 11.2 million beneficiaries in 17 LGUs have received aid.
In Bulacan, over 61 percent or around 1.8 million out of 2.9 million beneficiaries already got financial aid. Meanwhile, more than 53 percent or 1.8 million from a total 3.4 million beneficiaries received assistance in Cavite. In Laguna, over 2 million out of 2.7 million beneficiaries got aid which is equivalent to a distribution rate of 76 percent while 61 percent or 1.6 million from a total of 2.7 million individuals received the ECQ aid.
• Año also said they received over 23,000 complaints on alleged anomalies in the aid distribution. “A total of 23,292 complaints were received and 15,736 are under deliberation and 3,824 have been resolved. All complaints will be answered. If there are unanswered ones, we will intervene and conduct a probe for appropriate action,” he stressed. The deadline for the distribution of ECQ aid was earlier extended until May 15 to give local officials enough time to ensure that health protocols are being observed during the activity.
• Filipino workers who had been infected with COVID-19 will receive appropriate compensation from the government through the Employees’ Compensation Commission, according to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III. The ECC Board, chaired by Bello, approved the inclusion of the COVID-19 in its list of occupational and work-related diseases.
• Taiwan is considering banning Filipino workers due to the rising number of new arrivals of Overseas Filipino Workers who tested positive for COVID-19. According to Pilipino Manpower Agencies to Taiwan (PILMAT) former president Jackson Gan, the Taiwan Manpower Association Council of Labor Affairs is studying the temporary ban.