The government will look into the possibility of opening 75 percent of the economy of Metro Manila and nearby provinces to stimulate business activity and livelihood, Malacañang said Thursday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque has cautioned that the country’s hunger incidence and unemployment rate might rise if the local economy is not revitalized.
At present, Roque noted that only 50 percent of the economy of Metro Manila is open while it remains under general community quarantine.
“Doon po sa mga datos ni (acting Socioeconomic Planning) Secretary (Karl Kendrick) Chua, pinakita niya na bagama’t GCQ ang Metro Manila, ang problema, 60 per cent ng (pambansang) ekonomiya ay nasa Metro Manila. So, 50 per cent pa lang ng Metro Manila ang nakabukas sa ngayon (Based on the data of Secretary Chua, he showed that while Metro Manila is under GCQ, the problem is Metro Manila accounts for 60 percent of the economy. So only 50 percent of Metro Manila economy is open at present),” he said during a televised press briefing Thursday.
“So, pag-uusapan pa po pupuwede bang mas luwagan natin ang ating ekonomiya ng maging 75% man lang ang Metro Manila at iyong mga karatig na probinsiya kung saan ang bulto ng ekonomiya ay nakasalalay at ano iyong mga pamamaraan para mapatuloy na mapangalagaan ang kalusugan (So, it will be discussed whether it is possible to further open up to 75 percent the the economy of Metro Manila and nearby provinces, which accounts the bulk of our economy, and other measures to sustain the protection of public health),” he said.
The further opening up of the economy and public transportation will be discussed during President Duterte’s meeting with the Cabinet next Monday.
Roque said health measures must be stepped up to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in case the government loosens movement restrictions in the capital region.
In the presentation to the President and some Cabinet members last Monday, Roque said Chua tackled the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, particularly the weakening of the economy.
“At kapag bumaba ang ekonomiya, ibig sabihin mas maraming nagugutom, mas maraming walang trabaho, mas maraming hindi nakapag-aaral) (If the economy falls, it means more people will go hungry, many will lose jobs, and many cannot study),” he said.
“Ang solusyon, ang tanging solusyon po, buksan pa po natin ng mas maluwag ang ating ekonomiya na pupuwedeng gawin naman kung pag-iingatan po ang buhay (The only solution is to further open the economy. It can be done if we will continue to take care of public health),” he said.
Asked how the government intends to further open up the economy, Roque said the one-meter distancing rule in public transportation will be tackled in the next Cabinet meeting.
The government initially agreed to implement a reduced physical distance policy of 0.75 meter to allow more passengers to use public transportation. It decided to keep the one-meter distance rule after its plan drew criticism from health experts over concerns about possible COVID transmission.
“Sa transportasyon po talaga, kasi iyong one meter rule na iyan, eh suma total po diyan, mga 30 per cent lang ang transportation natin (In transportation, because of the one-meter rule, only 30 percent of the transportation is allowed to operate),” he said.
“So kinakailangan po natin ang 20 per cent na buksan pa ang ekonomiya, kung mananatili po tayo sa GCQ. Dahil ang GCQ, ibig sabihin, eh 50 per cent lang po ng ekonomiya ang nakabukas (So we may need to open the economy by 20 percent more if we will stay under GCQ. Because under GCQ, only 50 percent of the economy is open),” he added.
The President has placed Metro Manila, considered the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, under the relaxed GCQ until the end of the month.
Metro Manila has remained under GCQ since last June 1 except for the two-week modified enhanced community quarantine in early August following the timeout plea of the medical community.
Other areas under GCQ are Batangas, Tacloban City, Bacolod City, Iligan City and Iloilo City while Lanao del Sur has been placed under the stricter modified enhanced community quarantine. The rest of the country will stay under less restrictive modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) until the end of October.