A business stalwart said it is better that the government deferred the implementation of granular lockdown in Metro Manila since the lack of clarity concerning the regulations would have only caused more hardships for workers and businesses.
“Marami ang nagalit at marami ang talagang nag-e-expecting na magkakaroon ng change. Pero mabuti na rin yun kasi kung magulo ang regulasyon eh lalong magastos at lalong mahirap,” said Sergio Ortiz-Luis, Jr., president of in the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), in a September 9 interview with ABS-CBN’s Pasada sa Teleradyo program.
“Mahirap naman yung pumapasok ka eh bigla na lang palang may regulasyon na di ka naman pala dapat pumasok,” Ortiz-Luis added. “Mabuti na rin yung na-cancel na.”
He said the premature announcement to go into general community quarantine (GCQ) without clear guidelines may have been because “under pressure din siguro sila dahil talagang marami nang nahihirapan. Ayaw naman nilang magbigay na ng ayuda siguro at wala namang maibibigay na siguro.”
The Duterte government on September 7 announced it was retaining the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in Metro Manila until September 15, delaying the expected transition of the capital region to a new lockdown system.
Metro Manila was supposed to begin on September 8 the implementation of a new community quarantine system—one more focused on granular lockdowns instead of wide-scale ones.
Ortiz-Luis said that with the new system seeming to be even stricter than the MECQ, “sino naman ang magbubukas na tindahan dun kung di mo alam ang mangyayari sa iyo?”
He further stated that from the start, the private sector has been against lockdowns. He said that according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the economic cost of implementing the enhanced community quarantine or ECQ in Metro Manila is a staggering P11 billion a day.
Ortiz-Luis, who is also the president of the Philippine EXporters Confederation, Inc. (PHILEXPORT), likewise questioned the plan to allow only the vaccinated to go out.
“Kung GCQ tayo, bakit naman ganun? Dapat yung APOR [authorized persons outside residence] makalabas at yung may tindahan argabyado naman dun…. Pag ang kliyente mo lang ang vaccinated, no way na magbukas ng establishment mo… Hindi viable.”
He also pointed out that this would be unfair to the unvaccinated because it is not their fault. “Hindi naman problema yung hesitancy, ang problema walang vaccine.”
He noted that such a policy favoring the vaccinated would only create further problems, such as people lining up to present vaccination documents and the business incurring more costs by hiring additional staff to check the documents.
“Na-realize siguro nila na it doesn’t work ung guidelines. Otherwise there will be more harm.”
Asked about balancing the needs of business and healthcare, he said, “Huwag ipasa ng gobyerno sa atin yung kakulangan nila.”
Earlier, Ortiz-Luis in a September 7 interview also on Teleradyo, said that “marami sa problema natin, dun sa nagpapatupad. Sumusunod ang mga Pilipino. Tayo nga sa buong mundo ang nag-fe-face shield.”
He said the private sector since last year has been calling on the government to invest in adding more rooms in hospitals and establishing more isolation centers in anticipation of a spike in COVID-19 cases.
“Iisipin ba nating hindi nila binabayaran yung ospital?” Ortiz-Luis remarked. He added that because of allocation problems, the healthcare system, including the Philippine General Hospital, the Philippines’ largest COVID-19 referral center, is now encountering problems, including lack of healthcare workers.
Finally, he suggested that public vehicles that were allowed to operate pre-pandemic should be allowed to ply their routes once more under GCQ to allow workers to go to work as the economy is gradually being reopened.
“Hindi naman ganun ang ginawa. Ang ginawa mino-modernize yung jeep, mino-modernize yung bus,” Ortiz-Luis said.
He added that a PHILEXPORT survey of its members showed that only 30% to 50% of their workers are able to come to work. “One of the biggest reasons they have ang hirap sumakay, walang sasakyan.”