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Philippine finance chief seeks to further reopen the economy

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Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III is encouraging President Rodrigo Duterte to put Metro Manila under a modified general community quarantine “as quickly as possible because people have to start working.”

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III seeks to further loosen movement curbs in the capital region to reignite an economy facing its deepest slump in three decades.

The greater Manila area and its neighboring regions, which account for about 70% of economic output, should be placed under the lowest level of restrictions, Mr. Dominguez said at a televised briefing on Wednesday. The capital was kept under a general community quarantine while the strict stay-at-home order in Cebu City was extended through July 15.

Mr. Dominguez is encouraging President Rodrigo R. Duterte who implemented one of Asia’s early and longest lockdowns amid the coronavirus pandemic to put Metro Manila under a modified general community quarantine “as quickly as possible because people have to start working.” Nearby regions have already been placed under the lowest quarantine level, where industries can operate at full capacity.

Since June 1 when Mr. Duterte allowed some businesses and transportation to resume, confirmed cases have doubled to 37,514 as of Tuesday while deaths stood at 1,266. While infections are rising faster in areas like Cebu City, the cases in Metro Manila and nearby provinces remain elevated.

Still, Mr. Dominguez told the President that “we really should begin opening” as millions of Filipinos have already lost their jobs. Lockdowns must be limited on a place-to-place, or even company-to-company basis, the finance chief said. “If a company has a big spike, close it down.”

The $331 billion economy may have slumped by as much as 6.7% in the second quarter when much of the country was under strict lockdown, according to the central bank. The government expects gross domestic product to contract by 2%–3.4% this year. Unemployment rate climbed to a record 17.7% in April as the number of jobless surged to 7.3 million. Labor force participation fell to an all-time low of 55.6%.

In Cebu, the number of critical cases and deaths are rising, Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., chief implementer of measures to stem the outbreak, said on Monday. The central Visayas region where Cebu is located had 21 COVID-related deaths in the past two weeks — the highest in the country. — Bloomberg





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