ABOUT P23 billion worth of aid for Filipinos affected by a strict lockdown in the capital region and nearby provinces would be released to local governments starting Monday, according to the Interior and Local Government department.

The Treasury bureau would release the funds directly to local government units, Bernardo C. Florece, Jr., the agency’s officer-in-charge, told the ABS-CBN TeleRadyo at the weekend. The cash assistance should be given within 15 days, and 30 days if it is in kind, he said.

Each beneficiary will get P1,000, “provided that the assistance given to a family should not exceed the cap of P4,000,” the Social Welfare department said in a statement last week, citing the Budget department.

It added that local government may give the aid in cash or in kind.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Saturday extended the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Cavite until April 11.

Mr. Florece said the government would intensify its “prevention, isolation, treatment and reintegration” efforts under the extension of the lockdown in Metro Manila.

He said agencies would deploy about 18,000 more contact-tracers in the metro to find people exposed to the coronavirus within 24 hours. “If it’s beyond 24 hours, our contact-tracing will not be efficient,” he said in Filipino.

The week-long lockdown, which the President declared last week to address a fresh surge in infections in the so-called National Capital Region Plus bubble, was set to end on April 4.

Presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. on Saturday said restrictions might be eased if cases go down. Health care use, the infection rate and other indicators would be used to assess the lockdown levels needed, he added.

“From the perspective of an entrepreneur, professional, employer, in my opinion, weekly announcements of quarantine status is not really ideal,” John Paolo R. Rivera, an economist at the Asian Institute of Management, said in a Viber message.

He said announcing changes in quarantine classifications weekly results in “extra uncertainty to an already uncertain situation.”

“It’s quite short for adjustments to be made immediately. One week may not be enough for all necessary adjustments to happen.”

Mr. Rivera said the weekly changes make workforce and non-workforce-related preparations more unmanageable during the pandemic.

Unstable government policies such as the unexpected announcements of changes in quarantine rules have negative effects on business and consumer confidence, he added.

“Basic economics also tells us of lagged effects and that investment is a function of confidence and if we cannot at least create a stable or predictable business environment for the purposes of planning, we cannot expect significant improvements,” Mr. Rivera said.

“A more structured approach will definitely help a lot in recovery,” he said.

“The consequent announcements of lockdowns or further restrictions will have a negative impact on the country’s economic growth,” Ruben Carlo O. Asuncion, chief economist at UnionBank of the Philippines, Inc. said.

“Maybe some have already factored in this ‘dance’ with the virus, but I feel that many are not ready and do not readily adjust,” he said.

Philippine economic output slumped by a record 9.5% in 2020, as the government enforced one of the world’s longest and strictest lockdowns. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza