DTI wants shorter curfew hours for people to dine out
DTI wants shorter curfew hours for people to dine out
Prinz Magtulis (Philstar.com) - July 14, 2020 - 1:26pm

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 1 3 p.m., July 15) — The Duterte administration does not only like to see more people eating out by July 21, it also wants more time for people to dine in restaurants as part of the country’s slow transition to looser movement restrictions enforced to control the spread of pandemic.

In a televised briefing on Tuesday, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the national government is requesting cities, towns and municipalities to relax their existing curfews once more diners are permitted in restaurants next week.

“We are enjoining our local government units that hopefully they also allow the extension of their curfews. Instead of (starting at) 10 p.m., (change it to) 12 midnight,” Lopez said in Filipino at the daily Laging Handa briefing of the government.

Giving residents more time to go out, Lopez said, would allow restaurants and diners to operate longer and accept more customers, giving them more chance to generate income and their workers to earn.

For instance, Lopez said that since dinner accounts for “40-50% of revenues” in a day, having a higher turnover of customers in the evening means establishments are able to raise more revenues in a day. Currently, he said firms claimed daily earnings only match their expenses. 

As of July 13, nearly 45 days since lockdowns eased, labor department data showed there were still 1.98 million workers were displaced due to temporary closure of business. 

Cities and municipalities in Metro Manila prohibit people from going outside their homes between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. daily as part of infection control. The curfew was already relaxed from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. during the stringent lockdowns from March 17 to June 1.

In areas outside the National Capital Region like Laguna however, curfew hours continue to start at 8 p.m. even as the regions already transitioned from strict enhanced community quarantine to any of the two looser versions of general community quarantine (GCQ) or modified GCQ.  

'Difficult' to close again

President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to announce new quarantine levels over the next two weeks on Wednesday, but many expect NCR and neighboring areas such as Calabarzon to remain under looser GCQ regimes despite a recent spike in coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) cases and deaths.

“It would be difficult for the establishments that just opened to close again. They are just recovering,” Lopez said when asked about the possibility of shifting back to stricter lockdowns.

As the government rebalances public health and economy, the trade chief said shortening curfew hours could work in tandem with a new department order that would increase limits on customers dining in for GCQ and MGCQ. Under the plan, GCQ areas can accommodate up to 50% of normal establishment capacity, up from 30%, while those in MGCQ would be allowed a higher 75% limit from currently 50%.

Lopez also downplayed contagion fears, saying that as authorities have observed, “92-100%” of operating establishments comply with minimum health standards such as wearing masks and taking temperatures of customers. 

“In fact, when Secretary (Carlito) Galvez and I did an inspection, we were happy because we saw that some businesses even added protocols to those issued by (government),” Lopez said.

“We are hoping LGUs can relax curfews because it can add to the income of our workers…,” he added.

Sought for comment, Dakila Cua, chair of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, the umbrella organization of local government groups, said shortening of curfew hours should be decided depending on the number of cases on a locality.

“A one-size-fits-all approach should not apply here because the situation may differ from area to area,” Cua said in a text message on Wednesday.

“If the data shows that an area is free of COVID-19, and their experience shows that theur constituents have already adopted the behavior and precautions necessary to prevent COVID-19 outbreak in their jurisdiction, then proposals to extend the curfew should be entertained...,” he explained.

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