By Jenina P. Ibañez

ELECTRONICS exporters are appealing the government’s decision to extend the strict lockdown in Laguna, citing up to $20 million in business losses for the sector each month.

Semiconductor & Electronics Industries in the Philippines Foundation, Inc. (SEIPI) President Danilo C. Lachica sent a letter to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) on Wednesday to request for a shift to a general community quarantine (GCQ) in Laguna.

Laguna, along with Metro Manila and Cebu City, will be on a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) until the end of the month.

The modified ECQ allows selected manufacturing and processing plants, including electrical equipment and machinery manufacturing, to operate with up to 50% of their workforce.

Under a GCQ, a longer list of businesses may operate with up to 75% of their workforce on-site, with some transportation services allowed to support the industries.

Export-oriented companies have already been allowed to operate under ECQ, under conditions that companies provide accommodations and transportation.

Mr. Lachica in a mobile message explained that they intend to ramp up capacity, with the hope that the movement of supplies and workers are not impeded.

“We still have not normalized air/sea shipments. As for workers, the concern would be the COVID-19 case status of barangays they come from,” he said.

In its letter, SEIPI said that the electronics industry in Laguna generated export revenues of $17.5 billion in 2019, with 160,000 direct jobs. SEIPI members include around 40 manufacturing companies and 100 suppliers in Laguna.

Philippine electronics exports in 2019 grew by 4% to $43.32 billion, or 61.6% of the country’s total commodity exports, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Electronics exports in the first quarter of 2020 dropped 4% to $9.3 billion, accounting for 59% of total commodity exports.

“After 8 weeks of ECQ, massive amounts of business ($10 million to $20 million per month) have been shifted to China, Vietnam, Japan and other countries, which if sustained, will deprive thousands of Filipino’s their jobs,” SEIPI said.

“An extended ECQ makes it more likely that business will stay overseas. Our government needs to act now to preserve what it can of the remaining business and jobs.”

SEIPI also said that a Laguna-based electronics company planning to invest $400 million and hire 3,000 new employees over the next four years may move its investment to Thailand if the lockdown puts its expansion at risk.

SEIPI said that half of its employees are unable to come to work during the lockdown. The group added that its health and social distancing measures are guided by corporate headquarters, noting that it provides transportation, hygiene protocols, and personal protective equipment.

According to SEIPI, its multinational companies in Laguna are part of a global supply chain producing components for pandemic response technology for hospitals and cloud-based data storage providers.

The ECQ was declared in mid-March in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The 7,286 COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila account for most of more than 11,000 cases in the country as of Tuesday. Cebu City recorded 1,484 cases.

Laguna recorded 390 infections of COVID-19 as of Tuesday, with 335 active cases and 10 deaths, according to the Health department’s online tracker.

Starting May 10, the Health department tests more than 8,000 people per day, ten days past its target date for this testing capacity.