Employers have expressed relief following the decision of the government to relax a bit the 2-week enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the National Capital Region (NCR) and neighboring provinces even as they urged the government never to implement the ECQ again unless it is the last resort.

Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., president of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines, said the modified ECQ (MECQ) may not be the best but at least more establishments can now operate albeit still limited capacity.

Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., president of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines

“MECQ might not be the best but this is better than ECQ. It is still a hard climb but this is a positive move,” he said.

ECOP Chairman Edgardo Lacson expressed appreciation of the government’s move stating the easing of restrictions may tentatively bring moderate relief to business as it “merely allows the half turning of the wheels of the economic engine.”

According to Lacson, the business sector yearns for the return to the old normal soonest and views the MECQ as a prelude to the opening of the economy with all the required health facilities and manpower adequately provided by authorities and private sector partners.

Edgardo G. Lacson, chairman of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) (Photo credit: https://ecop.org.ph)

Meanwhile the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX) welcomed the MECQ for NCR Plus bubble as it means more industries can re-open and more employees can go back to work.

“More importantly, we hope that the relaxation is a portent of things to come. But to make it effective, the government must step up in the area of data management, contact tracing, vaccine procurement and logistics, quarantine and hospital facilities. Our government must realize that time is of the essence. We reiterate that lockdown should not be the primary tool to address the pandemic. Continued lockdown will aggravate the damage to the economy and cause continued pain and suffering to our people,” said FINEX President Francisco Ed. Lim.

FINEX President Francisco “Francis” ED. Lim

As the economy starts to reopen, Ortiz-Luis urged the government to tighten the implementation of all the health and safety protocols.

“Reopening a bit is less expensive than a lockdown,” he said citing loss of confidence as shown by the falling stock market shares.

Ortiz-Luis urged government never to return to ECQ, but only as a last resort.

“If can be avoided, we should not go back to lockdown it should be a last resort,” he added.

He cited reports of a growing number of mentally disturbed Filipinos because of the difficulties due to the pandemic and prolonged lockdown.

On Saturday, April 11, ECOP urged the Duterte administration to look for other measures to balance life and economy stressing that continued lockdown is eroding confidence not just among businessmen but to ordinary Filipinos, as well.

Edgardo G.  Lacson, chairman of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), said extending the ECQ for another week will further plunge the economy to an unprecedented depth where hope of recovery will be nearly impossible.

 “It could result in untold hunger, increased joblessness, permanent loss of opportunities, despair, and discourage new investments. A collective feeling of doom might become pervasive and bring the country to an economic standstill if not taking a giant leap backward,” warned Lacson.

Lacson said this as President Duterte is expected to decide today whether or not to extend further the two-week NCR Plus bubble.  

Ortiz-Luis also said “Further extension of this lockdown could resort in chaos and the   economy to go deeper, making it very hard to recover. Even confidence among us is down.” 

“Confidence is eroding, so we have to try other means to contain the infection and to live with the COVID, not continue lockdown.”

Ortiz-Luis said there is no need even to conduct a survey among members to determine how many workers lost their jobs anew in the past two weeks because most of the businesses are closed.

“There is no need for surveys because really most of the micro, small and medium enterprises had closed shops already. More people are getting hungry and we don’t have money for ayuda,” he said.

Instead of continued lockdown, ECOP would like the government to impose other measures like strict implementation of health and safety protocols like wearing of masks, face shields and physical distancing.

“Lockdown is not a solution but a last resort,” he said noting the country has been on a lockdown for more than a year already.

He also reiterated his suggestion to suspend the Privacy Law just for COVID to easily identify the positives instead of spending billions of government resources for contact tracing. 

Instead, he suggested to use the amount to pay hospitals to encourage them to open more rooms for patients, and give incentives to medical frontliners.

He also called for proper testing as he noted of the many false negatives that only boosted the country’s COVID cases data.

In addition, ECOP would like the Department of Health to get their acts together because people are getting mixed signals due to conflicting policies.

Ortiz-Luis further noted that while President already ordered to allow the private sector to import vaccines and allow ivermectin, a drug still under investigation for COVID treatment, his orders are not actually followed.   

“The people have very low confidence because of the DOH. It seems they have no sense of urgency,” he added.

Source: Manila Bulletin (https://mb.com.ph/2021/04/13/business-lauds-mecq-decision-for-ncr-plus/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=business-lauds-mecq-decision-for-ncr-plus)