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DTI guidelines propose rent relief for shuttered retailers

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PHILSTAR/KJ ROSALES

THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has asked mall operators and commercial landlords to waive rents as stores shut during the month-long Metro Manila quarantine.

In a memorandum issued Monday, the DTI said in its “guidelines” that “with the declaration of General Community Quarantine,” mall operations will be limited to establishments offering basic necessities, including supermarkets, banks, pharmacies, health clinics, bookstores, hardware stores, and food stalls that offer takeout and delivery.

Business Process Outsourcing offices inside malls are also allowed to continue operations.

“Lessors and owners of business spaces shall share the responsibility by waiving the corresponding rental fees and charges of stores that were closed during the one-month period of General Community Quarantine,” the DTI said.

The memorandum went out as the “Implementing Guidelines for IATF Resolution No. 12 Issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the management of Emerging Infectious Disease on Social Distancing and Business Operations.”

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez in a mobile message to reporters said that stores that remain open pay rent.

“They nego(tiate) their discounts if applicable.”

President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Thursday ordered a Metro Manila quarantine halting most land, domestic, and sea travel to and from the capital region from March 15 to April 14 in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The quarantine has since been “enhanced” with the suspension of transportation services and most people ordered to stay indoors.

Leisure and entertainment business establishments are also prohibited from operating for the entire quarantine period.

These include “places of amusement” that serve alcoholic beverages such as night clubs, bars, taverns, cocktail lounges, discotheques, and pubs.

Arts, entertainment, and recreational activities and establishments have also been ordered shut. These include live performances, exhibits for public viewing, art galleries, concerts, opera, dance productions. Concert halls and theaters have also been ordered to shut down.

Included in the ban are gambling facilities, such as casinos, bingo halls, video gaming terminals, and lottery and off-track betting services.

The memorandum said that business owners of these spaces should also waive rental fees.

Retail establishments that are allowed to operate must observe social-distancing best practices, keeping customers at a density of one person per square meter of unimpeded space in the selling area. Number of entrants will be limited to the establishment’s carrying capacity, based on the total vacant space in square meters.

Retail establishments have also been directed to educate staff on social distancing, carrying capacity, and sanitary measures, and to notify public health authorities of staff that show COVID-19 symptoms.

Retail establishments were also encouraged to use e-commerce platforms within the capital region.

Ayala Land, Inc. (ALI), SM Supermalls, Inc., and the Villar-led VistaMall and Starmalls have announced the temporary closure of their Metro Manila malls.

“SM Prime Holdings, Inc. (SM Prime), assures all its stakeholders that the Company will be in full support of the preventive measures outlined by the national and local government to help mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) disease,” SM Prime CFO John Nai Peng C. Ong said in an e-mail.

Ayala Land, Inc. (ALI) Chief Finance Officer Augusto D. Bengzon in an e-mail said that ALI has a business continuity plan (BCP) in place, based on national and local government directives on quarantines.

“Under the BCP, pandemic/epidemic plans were revisited to ensure the readiness and response action of each business unit, in consideration of three (3) critical loss scenarios: (1) loss of premises, (2) loss of critical people, and (3) loss of critical service providers,” he said.

“The required resources and activities under the three scenarios have been identified to ensure the continuity of critical functions to support the business and protect the public’s interest under a lockdown or a quarantine scenario.”

Establishments in the agriculture, manufacturing, and services sector may operate as long as they follow social distancing and health measures. DTI also encouraged businesses in construction and manufacturing to provide temporary housing for workers living outside Metro Manila.

DTI urged establishments in operation to prepare an infectious disease preparedness and response plan, including risk assessment, contact tracing for workers exposed to COVID-19, infection prevention such as hand washing measures, disinfection, and providing customers with hygiene items such as alcohol and trash bins.

In disclosures to the Philippine Stock Exchange on Monday, casino and gaming companies Bloomberry Resorts Corp. (Solaire Resort and Casino); Leisure and Resorts World Corp.; PhilWeb Corp.; DFNN, Inc.; Premium Leisure Corp., and Belle Corp. (City of Dreams Manila) announced suspended operations. — Jenina P. Ibañez





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