Bringing back Metro Manila and some parts of the CALABARZON region to stricter quarantine rules, or modified enhanced community quarantine, from ECQ is destructive and not foolproof that COVID-19 cases will slow down.
Curbing the rise of the pandemic in the capital region can be done through the no-nonsense implementation of health protocols, while allowing businesses to reopen fast and restoring the jobs of Filipino workers. Authorities down to the barangay level should enforce the health and safety rules laid down by the Inter-Agency task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases in containing the virus spread while the economy is reopening.
The Federation of Philippine Industries, the umbrella organization of over 100 manufacturing companies, has backed the call of the Department of Finance to ease the quarantine measures in Metro Manila and other major urban centers to accelerate the reopening of the economy after a long lockdown period.
Mobility restrictions, or the lack of transportation, have been hampering the full reopening of the economy. The business group, in a letter to the task force, supported looser quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila, CALABARZON, comprising the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon, and other urban areas as soon as possible to reopen the economy, “with the precaution that those factories and barangays with COVID-19 cases be dealt with more strictly.”
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III earlier noted that while the people’s health and safety remained the government’s top priority, Filipinos cannot be retreating from the virus at the cost of their livelihoods, especially in Metro Manila and Calabarzon, which collectively account for 67 percent of the domestic economy.
The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the country’s largest business organization, also called on the government to allow businesses to resume full operations. Nearly five months of lockdown have restricted business operations and put more companies at greater danger of permanent closures.
Business closures, meanwhile, will translate into reduced tax collections and put the sustainability of public finances and the ability to fund public services, including health and education, at risk.
The rest of Europe and Asian countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan and South Korea have reopened their economies while practicing social distancing. These nations at the same time implemented widespread testing and contact tracing to limit the virus transmission, which the Philippines can do.
A responsible government should not withhold the jobs of those who want to feed their family. Hunger will eventually catch up with the unemployed.