By Denise A. Valdez

ROBINSONS Malls will start reopening in areas that will be downgraded to a general community quarantine (GCQ) this Friday, a top executive of the company said.

Robinsons Land Corp. (RLC) Senior Vice-President Arlene G. Magtibay said in an e-mail on Sunday some Robinsons Malls are preparing to resume operations by May 1.

“Robinsons Malls will open its malls in the areas that will be placed under general community quarantine (GCQ) on May 1 and follow the guidelines set by the national and local governments,” she said. “Currently, we are awaiting the re-opening guidelines from the different local government units.”

RLC is the second largest mall operator in the Philippines with 52 malls across Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Nine of these are in Metro Manila and 43 are in other urban areas.

While the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Greater Metro Manila and select regions across the country will remain until May 15, several areas classified as low-risk or medium risk will observe a GCQ after April 30.

The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) monitoring the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) situation recommended several areas to be put under a GCQ, but other areas are still for evaluation in the next days.

For Robinsons Malls that will be reopening, Ms. Magtibay said the company will continue to implement existing sanitation and safety protocols and introduce new measures to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Among these is a one-meter social distancing rule at mall entrances, guided by markers that will be mounted on floors. Mall goers will be checked for their body temperature, required to wear face masks, and asked to walk through a disinfecting mat to sanitize their footwear.

Benches and other mall seating inside the mall will also be marked to maintain social distancing. Escalators will implement a three-step gap for each rider and elevators will limit the number of persons per ride.

Guards will also be roaming around the mall to disperse crowds and prohibit small gatherings to uphold social distancing.

High-contact surfaces like escalator handrails, elevator buttons, door handles, railings and parking cards will be regularly disinfected. Restrooms and dining areas will also be frequently cleaned.

Tenants will be required to have alcohol or sanitizer for mall goers entering their respective stores. A one-meter gap for queuing customers will be implemented, and store personnel will be asked to wear face masks and do a temperature screening every day.

In the draft proposal on mall operations by the IATF, mall goers are limited to those aged 21 to 59 and to present their identification cards and “not look sickly.” The number of people inside every mall is also proposed to be limited.

The proposal also wants an increase in air-condition temperature to 26 degrees Celsius and removal of free WiFi access to avoid lingering of mall goers.

RLC gets the biggest chunk of its revenues from mall operations, which reached P13.25 billion or 43% of its total P30.58 billion revenues in 2019. Its net earnings last year increased 6% to P8.69 billion.

Shares in RLC at the stock exchange were lower by 10 centavos or 0.64% to P15.50 each on Friday.