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Duterte to tackle quarantine with business groups
“As we ramble on probably tomorrow or day after, after I shall have talked to the businessmen, then we can decide whether or not we can still modify the modified lockdown that we have imposed,” Duterte said at the meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases last Monday.
Presidential Photo/Karl Norman Alonzo, file

Duterte to tackle quarantine with business groups

Roel Pareño, Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - June 17, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte wants to meet with business groups to discuss possible adjustments to quarantine measures as well as ways to reopen the pandemic-battered economy.

“As we ramble on probably tomorrow or day after, after I shall have talked to the businessmen, then we can decide whether or not we can still modify the modified lockdown that we have imposed,” Duterte said at the meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) last Monday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said changes in the quarantine restrictions may take effect after June 30, noting that the new area classifications approved by the task force would be implemented for two weeks.

It was not clear when the meeting with businesses will take place. 

“All of us suffered losses. Nobody benefited from COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) because it shut down the economy,” Roque said at a press briefing yesterday.

“Perhaps during the meeting, the President would ask (businessmen) how we can fast-track the recovery from COVID-19, which has become a problem. The government needs to provide support to the private sector. The recovery would be difficult but we are behind you,” he added.

COVID-19 has infected more than 26,000 Filipinos and forced the closure of thousands of businesses. The government has allocated billions in emergency aid to low-income households and workers sidelined by the health crisis. 

The economic shutdown resulted in the shrinking of the Philippine economy by 0.2 percent in the first quarter, the first since 1998 during the combined El Niño and Asian financial crisis. Officials expect second quarter figures to be worse because of the lockdown imposed to contain the virus.

Acting socioeconomic secretary Karl Chua has admitted that an economic recovery is “very uncertain” but the situation may improve if the public cooperates with efforts to prevent the spread of the virus by following health standards.

At the same briefing, Roque gave assurance that the government has livelihood programs for jeepney drivers, who have been sidelined since the quarantine measures were imposed last March.

“Per (Interior) Sec. (Eduardo) Año, definitely they will become delivery service vehicles and for DOTr (Department of Transportation), they will help the jeepney operators avail of the jeepney modernization program,” he added. Roque previously said the government can hire jeepney drivers as contact tracers.  

More relaxed quarantine

In Zamboanga City, businessmen have urged the IATF to place the city under the more relaxed modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) instead of GCQ, citing P3 billion in losses due to the impact of lockdowns.

The IATF has included Zamboanga City city in the list of areas in Mindanao, including Davao City, to remain under the GCQ until June 30.

Pedro Rufo Soliven, president of the Zamboanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation Inc. (ZCCIFI), said businesses and livelihood have already suffered greatly due to strict quarantine.

While the local IATF has reported an increase in cases to 185, it has not considered that 138 of infected individuals have recovered and that more than 40 cases were detainees from the City Reformatory Center (CRC) ordered freed by the court but placed under quarantine as part of release protocols.

Soliven said Department of Health (DOH) data showed 10 cases or about .001 percent per one million population, making a transition to lower level of quarantine “thoroughly justified.”

“Let’s focus on the economy. The small, medium and micro enterprise is really crying for help. Another extension would make it very difficult for them to bounce back,” Soliven said.

He said the government’s call for business to operate was inconsistent with its admonition for the people to stay home.

“Basically, you ask the people to operate and open up (business), but basically you have these road blocks for them to efficiently manage and at least operate viably,” Soliven said.

“You ask all commercial establishment to open, particularly those essentials and those that can operate under the health protocol, but you ask people to stay at home. So, who is going to consume, patronize these stores?” Soliven said.

“There seems to be a disconnect. That is why we are raising all these issues, hopefully they are able to see from the perspective of the business community,” Soliven added.

Mayor Isabelle Climaco-Salazar said three measures should be set in place before the city is placed under MGCQ.

Salazar said the measures are strengthening the monitoring capability of the Barangay Health Emergency Response; improved data collection and contact tracing, and preparing a system that would ensure that every individual would conduct himself responsibly health-wise in public places.

“These three have to be set in place so that we will be able to be in a more relaxed new normal process in the city of Zamboanga,” Salazar said.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE
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