• Melo Acuna

COVID-19 and Business and other Concerns

Tapatan sa Aristocrat’s 7th Anniversary highlights COVID-19’s impact on business, economy and government response

MANILA – With the Department of Health’s latest figures of 46,333 active COVID-19 cases, the national government attempts to strike a balance between providing income opportunities and keeping the health standards observed by the populace.

Speaking at the 7th Anniversary celebration of the weekly Public Affairs program Tapatan sa Aristocrat, Presidential Spokesperson harry Roque said the national government looks at the case mortality rate and the critical bed capacity in its decision-making.

“We cannot afford to extend social amelioration benefits to keep everyone alive.” Secretary Roque said in answer to a question whether the government still has the cash to fund the program.

He added should hospitals get filled up, then “we have no choice but to respond.” He added if the government can still provide for the health requirements then the economy will have to be opened.

“If the mortality rate is low that means we can provide the care for our people,” he further said.

Meanwhile, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry President former Ambassador Benedict V. Yujuico said they know the government is trying its best to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Looking at Thailand, Viet Nam and Taiwan, their corona virus curve is going down. In the Philippines, we have not seen the impact of a long lockdown, how effective was our fight against COVID-19,” he explained.

He expressed optimism with the Special Session called by President Duterte for the passage of Bayanihan 2after Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III and House leaders came to a compromise.

“We cannot restart the economy without the stimulus program,” he added.

IBON Foundation executive director Sonny Africa said he is saddened by what is happening. However, he said the special session “is an indication we have something to look forward to.” He called on the government to not just see the supply side,

“It should also look into the demand side because when there’s too much unemployment, more money needs to fill the people’s pockets for its stimulus program,” he added. Asked if the government would still have the money for the social amelioration programs, Africa said the government should realign appropriations from less productive purposes. He mentioned infrastructure projects which utilize foreign-made products, personnel among others.

“The government must also consider new revenue sources,” Africa added.

Legazpi Bishop Joel Z. Baylon said Albay has not reported local transmission for the past days.

However, he said the national government may consider the possibility of suspending its program to bring home locally stranded individuals who simply disappear upon arrival and undergoing initial testing.

Secretary Roque said they already learned of the Bicol Region’s Inter-Agency Task Force’s request to suspend the program because of local infections traced to new arrivals.

He explained the IATF will look into the request but emphasized Filipinos cannot be prevented from returning to their hometowns.

“Albay has enough facilities to accommodate people up for quarantine,” he added.

Aristocrat Group of Companies’ president Raymund A. Reyes said they follow guidelines set by th Department of Trade and Industry and the Inter-Agency Task Force where health protocols are strictly observed.

“We are happy restaurants are now allowed to accommodate 30% of its capacity. We can only hope it will be increased to 50% under a modified General Community Quarantine,” Reyes said.

He explained restaurants and restaurants in hotels derive 80 to 90% of their revenues from dine-in customers. He added it is not only the cooks and waiters affected by the lockdown.

Restaurants have a multiplier effect on farmers and fishermen who produce what they serve and would even reach the construction industry. He expressed optimism better days lie ahead.

Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry President Dr. Henry Lim Bon Liong said the government needs to reopen the economy. He said there are members of their Federation in the hotel and travel industry who took the blunt of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both Ambassador Yujuico and Dr. Lim Bon Liong said the government has to support business not only by incentives but with its stimulus packages.

The same view was echoed by Atty. Antonio A. Ligon of De la Salle University who said small and medium enterprises employ millions of Filipino workers.

IBON’s Africa said the government should look into the businessmen’s and workers’ plight to address the negative impact of COVID-19 and its corresponding stringent measures to contain the pandemic.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Legazpi Bishop Jol Z. Baylon, PCCI President former Ambg. Benedict V. Yujuico, FFCCCII President Henry Lim Bon Liong and De La Salle University Law Professor Atty. Antonio A. Ligon. (Screen Grabs from Tapatan sa Aristocrat's 7th Anniversary Presentation/Melo M. Acuna)

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