THE Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (PhilExport) said the the government needs to help businesses stay afloat during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak and pitched a program of easier financing terms, tax breaks, and unemployment relief for workers.

“With no medical relief in sight to address the virus itself, we call on government’s assistance to help businesses, especially MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises), keep afloat through collateral-free loans, moratorium on loan and interest payments and tax breaks,” PhilExport President Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. said in a statement e-mailed to reporters on Friday.

He said PhilExport members have expressed their “very serious” concerns about the impact of the Covid-19 on their businesses.

Such concerns include late shipments, cancelled orders, and loss of buyers and suppliers, he said.

“These have resulted in higher cost of logistics and raw materials, as well as lower sales,” he added.

Mr. Ortiz-Luis said four exporters are now considering laying off workers.

“Assistance to displaced workers will be another welcome government intervention, with funds possibly coming from their local governments. Finally, it will be relevant and useful to divert or allot new funds to augment equipment, tools, medical personnel and facilities to support the response, recovery and rehabilitation phases of this crisis,” he added.

Most members, he said, are turning to the domestic market to compensate for lost business.

“There is clearly other work to be done. For example, it may not be the right time to look for raw material suppliers (other than those in China) considering the extensive coverage of the virus. But this is definitely a critical future step as we rebuild,” he said.

Because of the situation, the organization also postponed its 2nd Quarter General Membership Meeting set for April 14.

On Thursday, President Rodrigo R. Duterte announced that Metro Manila will be placed under the so-called “community quarantine” between March 15 and April 14 as confirmed Philippine cases of Covid-19 continue to rise.

The Trade department said the President’s directive does not cover business operations.

Goods are also free to move, according to Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez. — Arjay L. Balinbin