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May seen as reasonable time for shift to MGCQ
“Ideally, we open in May so that people can prepare for the fourth quarter,” Concepcion said in an interview with “The Chiefs” on OneNews / TV5 Thursday night.
Geremy Pintolo

May seen as reasonable time for shift to MGCQ

(The Philippine Star) - March 6, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — It may be reasonable for the entire country to be placed under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) by May as COVID-19 vaccines have started to arrive, signaling brighter prospects for recovery in the fourth quarter, according to presidential adviser for entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion.

“Ideally, we open in May so that people can prepare for the fourth quarter,” Concepcion said in an interview with “The Chiefs” on OneNews / TV5 Thursday night.

As President Duterte has declared his readiness to lift restrictions once the supply of vaccines becomes adequate, Concepcion said May would be the time to open the economy when the bulk of the vaccines shall have started arriving.

For the private sector in particular, he said initial orders covering 2.6 million doses from AstraZeneca are set to arrive in May and June, while the balance of 14.56 million doses would be in the country by the third quarter.

He said Go Negosyo is also working on getting Novavax vaccines, as well as helping consolidate small orders.

“We can’t open the economy in the last quarter of the year. That’s going to be too late. At least, open it way before that,” he said.

By shifting to MGCQ by May, he said more entrepreneurs may start hiring to get ready for the economy to bounce back in the fourth quarter of the year and for a strong 2022.

He said this may also encourage financial institutions to have better confidence in extending credit, especially to micro and small entrepreneurs.

Concepcion said he expects the economy to rebound in the fourth quarter, based on expectations of successful deployment of vaccines.

He said the vaccination rollout early this week would inspire confidence among the public in the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing severe illness and even death.

The first to get the jab of Sinovac vaccine of China was Philippine General Hospital director Gerardo Legaspi.

“If we execute and are able to convince Filipino people, do your part as a Filipino, vaccinate yourself to protect yourself and the rest around you, that is the only way we will win the war,” he said.

He also said election spending and the stimulus packages from the Bayanihan 2 and the proposed Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act would support economic recovery in the fourth quarter.

Virtual schooling

While Concepcion supports a shift to MGCQ and even allowing those below 15 years old to go out of their homes, he said classes in schools should remain online until next year or until 70 to 80 percent of the population is vaccinated.

“Malls are part of weekly gatherings and that is important to spur economic activity and consumer spending. Whereas schools, I think we have adapted to online learning. I think we can’t do both because that would be too dangerous with too many people out there,” he said.

Areas currently still under GCQ are Metro Manila, Apayao, Baguio City, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Batangas, Tacloban City, Iligan City, Davao City and Lanao del Sur.

Anticipating conflict with some local officials still tackling high cases of COVID-19 infection, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has warned them of possible sanction if they fail to follow the standardized travel protocols issued by the national government.

DILG spokesman Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said that local government units are not allowed to issue executive orders or ordinances that violate travel protocols laid down in a resolution by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).

“The DILG will have no recourse but to file a show cause order against you. It’s clear in the Bayanihan law that local policies must conform with national regulations,” he said in an interview on One News’ Agenda.

He cited the example of the Batanes LGU that has been insisting that it quarantine all visitors.

Under the new protocol, travelers do not need to undergo quarantine at their destination unless they manifest symptoms.

Travelers would also no longer need to secure negative swab results, police travel authority and medical certificate from their LGU of origin.

This will be replaced by a clinical assessment at the port of entry at the destination LGU.

Malaya noted that some LGUs have been requesting for some adjustments, such as mandating an antigen test prior to entry.

Adjustments

Some LGUs are also requesting for a memorandum circular from the DILG that would serve as implementing rules and regulations of the IATF resolution 101.

“Over the weekend the MC will be issued to mayors, governors and all LGU officials so it will be clear to all that no requirement for travel pass, no local medical certificate, there will be clinical assessment at the port of entry and finally quarantine is no longer required unless if there is assessment and there are symptoms,” he added.

Navotas City Mayor Toby Tiangco said the removal of some travel requirements was “regretful,” as it has made it harder for LGUs to monitor potentially infected individuals.

Also in an interview with One News’ “The Chiefs,” Tiangco said COVID-19 cases in the city are on the rise.

He revealed plans to require returning individuals who applied for travel authority to undergo RT-PCR tests.

“When they come back here in Navotas City, they would undergo RT-PCR testing. But we would not be able to do that anymore, because we do not know who would go outside Navotas, whether for leisure or for work,” he said. “Too bad. That would have been very good to check.”

Asked if he would be appealing the decision of the national government, he said he would not as “the case of one local government unit would affect the whole country.”

“I cannot patrol our borders, our boundaries. It is not like we are an island or a province. If there is a requirement of travel authority, they would be recorded,” he said. “But that is OK, we will try to make do with whatever we have.”

Navotas City has a total of 6,231 COVID-19 cases, with 5,609 recoveries and 197 deaths. It has 425 active cases as of March 4.

Tourism backed

Meanwhile, the Department of Tourism (DOT) voiced support yesterday for the decision of Puerto Princesa to reopen its attractions to local tourists.

“We are keen to discover and develop other tourism products to encourage visitors to stay longer or to entice repeat visits. We have great confidence in the city’s future as there is vast potential to further develop its nature-based, farm and sun and beach tourism products,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said.

Puerto Princesa started accepting domestic tourists on March 1. Puerto Princesa is known for its UNESCO World Heritage site Underground River.

Tourists are required to take the RT-PCR test before travel with 48 hours validity.

Negative test result should be emailed directly by DOH-accredited testing facility to the city’s Incident Management Team.

The city also requires tourists to have a confirmed booking at a DOT-accredited accommodation establishment and travel agency for guided tours.

The use of StaySafe.ph, a contact tracing application, is likewise mandatory in the city.

Puyat also expressed hope Coron’s sustainable tourism development will draw more visitors and hasten tourism recovery in the province.

“Giving our recovery plans for Coron a major boost is the Sustainable Tourism Development Project or STDP, which will be launched this year and will run throughout 2026,” the DOT chief said in a separate statement.

The STDP is a five-year project aimed at making Coron and El Nido’s tourism development sustainable and inclusive.

It is a joint project of the DOT, the provincial government of Palawan, the municipalities of Coron and El Nido and the Asian Development Bank.

Puyat gave assurance that tourism frontliners will be prioritized in the vaccination program.

She said the DOT and the Department of Labor and Employment have aided displaced tourism workers through the Cash Assistance Program, as mandated under Bayanihan 2.  –  Louella Desiderio, Helen Flores, Ralph Villanueva, Romina Cabrera

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