Businesses hit government's flip-flopping on restrictions in Metro Manila

Ian Nicolas Cigaral - Philstar.com
Businesses hit government's flip-flopping on restrictions in Metro Manila
Shoppers stay at the assigned dining area inside a mall in Antipolo City on Aug. 24, 2021.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Businessmen called out the government for pushing back the implementation of less strict restrictions in Metro Manila at the last-minute, saying such “reckless” announcements have big financial costs on businesses.

Prior to the surprise government announcement, the capital region was supposed to transition to less strict general community quarantine (GCQ) from September 8 to 30. In a statement on Wednesday, the Philippine Chambers of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), the largest business organization in the country, urged authorities to be careful when communicating changes to quarantine policies.

“Authorities must be prudent in prematurely announcing half-studied policies or policy shifts as they have tremendous impact on business operations and people’s daily lives,” Acting PCCI President Edgardo Lacson said.

Several establishments, especially small business, were forced to make last-minute adjustments after Malacañang announced on Tuesday that the capital region will stay under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) until September 15, pending clear guidelines on how a shift to a recalibrated GCQ will be implemented.

The new plan was “granular” or targeted lockdowns will be imposed on specific areas in Metro Manila where coronavirus cases are high to allow the rest of the capital region to open up to some extent during the GCQ, in a departure from previous policy of enforcing region-wide restrictions that results to huge economic losses. But a few hours before the new policy was supposed to take effect, the Palace said the pandemic task force was not yet finished ironing out the guidelines.

Businesses like luxury buffet NIU by Vikings took to social media to voice out their sentiments about the flip-flopping on pandemic restrictions. In a now-deleted Facebook post, Vikings wrote that all preparations they made “have to be contained once again because of the last-minute announcement and change of plans.”

Meanwhile, a videographer named Alfon Silva, who was already preparing for a shoot once the capital region relaxes to GCQ, tweeted that workers in the video production industry like him are already “tired” of abruptly canceling plans.

“Authorities must be careful in recklessly raising public expectations that will not be matched by the outcome,” PCCI’s Lacson said. “There is a risk that it might cause disappointment followed by frustrations and could trigger depression and despair.”

The PCCI earlier said they want  “full opening" of the economy even as herd immunity is not yet achieved, saying that it would be difficult to hit such a goal anyway if the coronavirus continues to mutate. For the group, any form of lockdown is “disruptive” to businesses.

In a statement also on Wednesday, Aurelio Montinola III, president of Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), another business group, said granular lockdowns must be complemented with more relaxed mobility curbs for vaccinated individuals to minimize economic losses.

“Additional treatment capacity and improved contact tracing likewise go hand in hand,” Montinola said. — with a report from Interaksyon

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