Businesses feel pinched when borders tighten

A policeman is seen at a checkpoint on the border of Calumpit, Bulacan and Apalit, Pampanga, March 22. – PHILIPPINE STAR / MICHAEL VARCAS

By Jenina P. Ibañez, Journalist

Businesses are calling for a faster roll-out of 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines as they feel the pinch of tighter restrictions in the capital region amid a new spike in infections.

The Health Department reported 8,019 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, the largest daily jump since the start of the pandemic (Read the related storyPhilippines sets up checkpoints as daily number of cases hits record”).

The government announced on Sunday that only essential travel would be allowed to and from Metro Manila and its neighboring provinces or the so-called “NCR Plus” bubble. Until April 4, some businesses will be temporarily banned from operating at full capacity or not at all, while dining in restaurants will not be allowed.

Acting Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said on Monday that the economy could no longer afford to see its major cities revert to the most stringent form of foreclosure given its huge impact on jobs and the incomes of workers and businesses.

“We have to consider that the previously imposed strict quarantines resulted in enormous loss of income and hardship, especially among the poor. IATF Resolution 104 allows key businesses and services to operate, instead of imposing extended community coverage and quarantine which could cost around P2 billion in wages per day, ”he said. in a press release.

Businesses anticipate losses in the next two weeks. The tourism industry was hoping to get a boost during Holy Week, which usually marks the start of peak tourist season.

“There will beFiIt would really have an impact as the majority of travelers for Holy Week would have been from NCR (National Capital Region), ”said Philippine Tourism Congress (TCP) President Jose C. Clemente III in a statement. mobile message.

He said the industry hopes “the situation will be under control” so that companies can resume their plans to reopen.

“Many stakeholders, especially travel agents and tour operators, still work from home or have alternate working hours because there is still not a lot of work to be done, so in those terms, most of we have not yet thought about the full reopening. ”

Small retail businesses will also beffsaid Benedicto V. Yujuico, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).

“Even with a minimum of additional restrictions, people will be afraid to go to malls, so there will be less customer traffic and this will also affect restaurants, even if outdoor sitting is allowed,” he said. he stated in an e-mail.

The government, he added, had taken into account potential business revenues and the disruption to employment and had taken steps to minimize them, noting that the lockdown would help slow the spike in infections.

“Lockdown is useful but the real solution lies in the arrival of vaccines and the faster rate of vaccination of citizens,” he said.

Henry Lim Bon Liong, president of the Federation of Chinese Philippine Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc., said the private sector was looking to help import more vaccines.

“If we have more vaccines nationwide this year, we are optimistic that we can fully rekindle consumer confidence, rebuild businesses and restore our economic growth in the Philippines in 2021,” he said. stated in a press release.

The Philippines vaccinated just over 330,000 people.

Foreign companies in the country are also encouraging the government to adopt international best practices to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19.

“The Chamber underlines the urgency of a smooth and rapid implementation of the vaccination program. This is essential to stabilize the current situation and to ensure that the majority of sectors are working on all cylinders again, ”European Chamber of Commerce President of the Philippines, Nabil Francis, said in a mobile message.

Exporters, on the other hand, are taking a wait-and-see approach. During last year’s tighter lockdown, businesses experienced disruption as they encountered bottlenecks in moving goods through multiple checkpoints.

Philexport chairman Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr., in a telephone interview said there could be disruption between suppliers of goods carrying goods, but it is not yet certain whether the same would happen with new restrictions.

But Danilo C. Lachica, president of Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc. (SEIPI), said the disruption would be minimal.

“(The industry) has learned to adapt and cope,” he said in a mobile message.

The Philippine economy contracted a record 9.5% in 2020 due to the extended lockdown. – with entries from Beatrice M. Laforga

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