Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez has strongly batted for continuity of activities of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) at limited operating capacity regardless of alert levels.

Lopez said this as he batted to allow the opening of indoor sports, like badminton, on top of the gyms and fitness centers amid worsening unemployment rate in the country.

DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez (Screengrab from Facebook live)

“The idea is, businesses, economic activities should continue at all alert levels and you just change the operating capacity,” he said during a television interview. He stressed that instead of total closure, the adjustments will be done on their operating capacity. If an area reaches Level 4 then the establishments in the area will have lesser operating capacity rather than totally closing their operations again.

Lopez, however, said there will still be exclusions, but the list would be short for the high-risk non-essentials.

In pushing for continuity of businesses, Lopez cited the recent labor force survey which showed that unemployment in the country went up 8.1 percent in August, equivalent to 3.88 more jobless Filipinos.

It just shows that the recovery path is not going to be a smooth one. Yes there are sectors recovering but some are highly sensitive to the community quarantine classification especially if enhance community quarantine/modified ECQ or levels 5 or 4 are declared. These can lead to job losses as seen in the recent labor force survey,” he said.

Thus, he said, DTI has proposed “to allow MSMEs to open for continuity from alert level 1-4 and just adjust the operating capacities. And perhaps require vaccinated status instead to indoor operations of concerned sectors like dine in and gyms, only at alert level4, indoors.”

“So, the idea is really just to maybe reduce operating capacity every time we reach a level four so that there’s containment, there’s a bit of more restriction, but that at least allow the activity to continue,” he added.

For instance, dine in and outdoor dine-in in restaurants and personal care services are already allowed under Level 4 at limited capacity of 10 percent indoor and 30 percent outdoor.

The next study, he said, could be adjusting the 10 percent indoor to 20 or 30 percent, all vaccinated, for Level 4, while outdoor from 30 to 50 percent, regardless of vaccination status.

“The good approach is to have continuity in operations and jobs, regardless of alert levels. Changes are implemented only in operating capacity, so there’s continuity, not open-close-open system,” he reiterated.

Lopez also noted that even if more businesses are already allowed to resume operations in areas under Level 4, some establishments remained closed. He, however, noted that majority of businesses would like to reopen even at limited capacity because that would mean additional revenues to pay for salaries and rents.

This is the reason, he said, that DTI batted for the reopening of restaurants and personal care services even for Level 4 areas to ensure continuity of business even at limited capacity.

As the pilot run for the Alert Level System in Metro Manila ends Thursday, Sept. 30, Lopez expressed hope for a more relaxed level for the capital region given the reduced rates in COVID cases and infection rate.

Source: Manila Bulletin (