FPI recommends a calibrated opening of the manufacturing sectors. — VICTOR V. SAULON

By Jenina P. Ibañez, Reporter

THE Federation of Philippines Industries (FPI) has recommended a set of conditions for the reopening of non-essential manufacturing operations.

FPI Chairman Jesus Lim Arranza in a letter to government officials on Monday said there will be a need to meet demand for products after the enhanced community quarantine is lifted, including materials for home and auto repair and maintenance.

“A gravely affected manufacturer may no longer have the resources, efficiency, and inertia to re-start its operation,” he said.

The letter, in which the group recommended a “calibrated” opening of manufacturing operations, was addressed to the secretaries of the finance, trade, health, foreign affairs, local government, justice, labor, tourism, and transportation departments.

Mr. Arranza said that manufacturers of non-essential goods must now be allowed to operate if companies are willing to restart operations immediately, and conduct sanitation measures before doing so.

The companies must also have employee housing close to their facilities, and offer transportation. FPI said that workers should not be allowed to return to their respective homes, and companies must present an action plan in case of emergencies.

“All personnel who will work must be tested with a legitimate testing kit for COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) at the outset and at the expense of the company, and that only those tested negative will be allowed to return to work,” Mr. Arranza said.

The group also recommended the creation of a committee, with government and manufacturing private sector representatives, to coordinate restarting operations.

Manufacturing operations of essential goods like food and healthcare products are currently allowed during the enhanced community quarantine, along with the manufacturing of pet food and hygiene products.

For work premises, Mr. Arranza said social distancing must be implemented and employees must be given personal protective equipment.

He also said the companies must identify the groups included in their supply chain, including hardware and logistics, so that they may be allowed to operate and support the needs of manufacturing.

The companies’ Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) IDs, he said, should be distinct from workers producing food products.

“Once a manufacturer re-opens, it will jumpstart the economic movement of practically all of its entire supply chain that will save the government and companies from subsidizing these affected people who will now be earning salaries and income, thereby allowing both private and the government to focus more of these resources to the more pressing matters it is facing,” Mr. Arranza said, noting that most manufacturing plants are in isolated or secure areas.

Meanwhile, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez replied to the Center for Alcohol Research and Development Foundation Inc. (CARD) after it asked for the lifting of the ban on alcoholic beverages.

Mr. Lopez said that directives banning alcohol were decided by some local government units, and is not covered by the limitations on manufacturing companies that are allowed to operate during the lockdown, which is set until end-April.

Manufacturing is permitted only for basic food, essential products, and their value chain to limit the movement of people and stop the spread of COVID-19.

“It must be limited to these very essential products that the people cannot live without. It is unfortunate that your sector is not part of the permitted sector,” he said.

“Nevertheless, we would like to further clarify that the directive concerning the permitted establishments covers the manufacturing operations and not the selling of these products from the retailers. Products that are in the supermarkets and retail stores and the movement of cargoes have not been prohibited by the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases) nor any of the agencies thereof.”

Mr. Lopez sent his reply to CARD Chairman Gerardo Tan Tee on April 17, a day after the original letter.

In Metro Manila, the local governments of Mandaluyong, Manila, Muntinlupa, and Quezon City have imposed a ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages.