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Cabinet to tackle reopening of economy

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Cabinet to tackle reopening of economy
The Philippine economy has plunged into a recession or two consecutive quarters of contraction mainly due to the lockdown restrictions that limited business activity.
Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — The proposal of economic managers to further reopen the economy to address the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, including higher hunger incidence and malnutrition among children, would be discussed by President Duterte during the Cabinet meeting on Monday, presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said yesterday.

“Their solution is to further reopen the economy because we need to continue with our livelihood even if COVID-19 is still around. We just need to wear masks, wash our hands and avoid (crowded areas),” Roque told PTV-4.

“What will we do? Many are suffering because of the prolonged lockdown. Can we provide relief to the sick, the severe or critically ill while opening the economy? These are questions we will answer,” Roque said.

Roque, however, said Vice President Leni Robredo, a vocal critic of the administration’s pandemic response, would not be invited to the Cabinet meeting.

“She (Robredo) is not a member of the Cabinet so she won’t be invited to the Cabinet meeting. I have also said that we would listen to her suggestions but we have not heard anything new,” the Palace spokesman said.

“If she suggests something new, I’m sure it would be considered,” he added.

The Philippine economy has plunged into a recession or two consecutive quarters of contraction mainly due to the lockdown restrictions that limited business activity.

Last Monday, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the Philippines still has enough money to fund the budget deficit but lockdown restrictions are holding back the economy.

Metro Manila, which contributes more than a third to the country’s economic output, has been under community quarantine since March.

Opening of computer shops eyed

Government officials are studying a proposal to allow students who do not have computers at home to stay at computer and internet shops to cope with the distance-learning program.

Philippine National Police (PNP) deputy chief for administration Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said Interior Secretary Eduardo Año would raise the issue in the next meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).

People who are 21 years old and below as well as senior citizens are prohibited from going outside their homes because of the COVID-19 outbreak except during emergencies and other essential travels.

However, Eleazar said there could be revisions on the guidelines given that some students, especially those from public schools, do not have access to the internet except through computer shops.

“We feel and understand the concerns of both the students and the parents, especially the poor, in this new kind of learning method. That is why the national government, through the NTF on COVID-19 and the IATF, are really finding ways to extend all the necessary assistance to them,” he said in a statement.

While some local government units have been providing gadgets and internet connection to their respective students, Eleazar said most LGUs do not have enough funds to extend the same assistance to their learners.

Police commanders were also instructed to extend all the necessary assistance for online learners in their areas of responsibility.

Among these are initiatives for poor parents and students in accessing internet connection for their online classes. – Helen Flores, Emmanuel Tupas

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