JOBS lost due to the economic fallout of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak are approaching the projected peak of 1.8 million, but could recover after the lockdown is lifted and businesses resume operations, according to the recently-resigned Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia.

“I’m hoping that the worst case still is 1.8 million… assuming that the quarantine is effective, then there’ll be improvements in terms of opening industries and work opportunities,” Mr. Pernia said by phone Wednesday, two days before he resigned.

“We may already have reached the peak because this is already a month after the lockdown (started), this is already two-thirds of the lockdown,” Mr. Pernia said.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has estimated that the fallout from COVID-19 and the resulting lockdown could displace between 116,000 and 1.8 million workers.

Mr. Pernia said the job displacement trend will only start to fall if the enhanced community quarantine is effective in containing the spread of the disease.

“There should be less (job displacement by the end of the year) assuming that the COVID-19 will soften or begin its downturn, even after April 30,” he said.

Mr. Pernia said more jobs will be available once the partial relaxation of lockdown takes place as more companies resume operations.

“There will be more jobs by then, assuming that the extension of the quarantine will be effective in bringing down the COVID-19 situation,” he said.

He said with many overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) losing their jobs, remittances could decline by $6-8 billion this year, after hitting a record $30 billion in 2019.

“Depending on the progress of this COVID-19, if it’s going be on the decline then jobs will be reopening in the Middle East again and so they can go back. In the case of technical workers, maybe we can use (them) for construction in the flagship infrastructure (program) here,” he said.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) has said that nearly 1.5 million Filipinos lost their jobs due to the temporary business closures.

Mr. Pernia had taken the position that extending the enhanced community quarantine, which is set to be lifted on April 30, will be “difficult” as many businesses are calling for at least a partial reopening.

Mr. Pernia also backed the gradual lifting of the lockdown, which would allow partial operations of malls and public transporation, with safety measures in place.

Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua was named acting secretary of NEDA following Mr. Pernia’s resignation on Friday.

Mr. Pernia citied personal reasons and “differences in development philosophy” with some Cabinet members, without elaborating. — Beatrice M. Laforga