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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

Business, Labor express fears on lockdown

As NCR-Plus gears for the lockdown, employers and workers fear of dire consequences

MANILA – The lockdown up for strict implementation this Friday will bring problems for both business and workers.

“We (in the business sector) are not believers in lockdown. The government, through NEDA said every week would cost the economy P105 billion. The Department of Trade and Industry has said losses in salary during the lockdown in the NCR and nearby provinces would cost another P30 billion,” said Employers Confederation of the Philippines president Sergio Ortiz-Luis, Jr. over Wednesday Roundtable @ Lido virtual forum.

He added the two-week lockdown would cost business, workers and the economy about P240 billion.

SENTRO Secretary-General Josua Mata said after a year and a half of the COVID-19 pandemic, the national government has not presented a clear strategy to deal with the health crisis as well as the economic crisis brought about by stringent quarantine measures including the coming lockdown.

“It would be fitting to find out how many individuals died due to the economic crisis the pandemic has caused,” he said.

He added the unreliable contact tracing and slow vaccine rollout aggravated the problem. On the vaccine hesitancy as reported by the government, Mata said it is due to the government’s failure to inform the public about the benefits of the vaccine.

“It is the workers, the minimum wage earners that take the brunt from the pandemic and the government’s failure to immediately respond to the people’s needs. It may do well for the Duterte administration to advance the benefits due the affected people for the next two weeks,” he explained.

However, Mata reported there are private hospitals which reduced their professional staff despite the need for their services. He said there are hospitals which are on the red as it has not made enough money from their operations.

“There are instances senior nurses have been retrenched due to the financial losses the hospitals incurred despite the pandemic,” he added.

As far as IBON’s Executive Director Sonny Africa is concerned, lockdowns have been proven ineffective to prevent the spread of the dreaded virus.

“We have seen an increase in the number of cases despite the lockdown the government imposed last year. In fact, the Philippines had the longest lockdown in ASEAN,” he said. Despite the lockdown beginning Friday, Africa said there seems to be no budget for mass testing, aggressive contract tracing and immediate attention for those in high-risk assignments.

“The poor will have to take the impact of the lockdown,” he added.

ECOP President Ortiz-Luis said the government was caught flat-footed when the COVID-19 began March last year.

“They were taken aback by the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact. We have told them to open more facilities at both government and private hospitals, provide funds for quarantine facilities and mass testing but the government failed to consider our suggestions,” he added. He pointed out had the government reacted positively to their suggestions, the government could have saved a lot of funds.

Private hospitals hesitated to respond favorably to the government’s call because PhilHealth has not settled its dues on time.

“The government must remember private hospitals are businesses and should attend to their employees, own maintenance and operating expenses,” he explained.

Ortiz-Luis, Jr. credited the government this time for its preparation for the lockdown.

A source at The Medical City disclosed PhilHealth still owes them P1.2 billion for bills prior to COVID-19. The same source said PhilHealth has paid them P40 million a week.

He said when the government announced its lockdown recently, losses have been felt as even prior to August 5, al fresco dining has been prohibited, some companied have stopped operations, reduced their manpower and the country’s stock market fell.

“We must consider the Delta variant as the main cause of the lockdown. What if they discover the other variants in the future, will they call for strict quarantine measures?” he said.

IBON’s Sonny Africa said after the government implemented the Bayanihan I, they forgot other people’s concerns.

“The government has to accept the blame because failure to do so would mean less effective response to the crisis,” Africa added. (Melo M. Acuña)

Resource persons all ECOP's Sergio Ortiz-Luis, Jr., SENTRO's Secretary-General Josua Mata, PNOP Chief Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar, DILG USec. for Barangay Affairs Martin Badulis Diño, MMDA Chair's Chief of Staff Michael Salalima and IBON's Sonny Africa. (Screen shot from Wednesday Roundtable @ Lido/Melo M. Acuna)

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