AROUND P83.3 billion in income may be lost during the nearly five weeks of stricter lockdown in Metro Manila and adjacent provinces, Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said on Monday evening.

During a televised Cabinet meeting with President Rodrigo R. Duterte, Mr. Chua said about P19.6 billion in workers’ income is sacrificed for every week of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), while P14.7 billion is lost for every week of modified ECQ (MECQ).

Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal were under a two-week ECQ from March 29 to April 11, in order to curb the spike in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infections. Many businesses were ordered to scale down operations or close during the ECQ, while others implemented work-from-home schemes.

Restrictions were slightly loosened as the so-called “National Capital Region Plus” was placed under an MECQ until end-April.

Dahil two weeks na po ’yong ating ECQ at may madadagdag pa na almost three weeks na MECQ, so total of almost 5 weeks, ang epekto po sa ating tao ay (the effect on the people is) P83.3 billion in foregone wages,” Mr. Chua said.

Mr. Chua noted that prior to the stricter lockdown, the jobs situation in the country was improving as the economy began to reopen. He said 9.3 million jobs were generated in February, although the unemployment rate rose to 8.8% versus 8.7% in the month prior.

Ang hinahabol natin sana by next year ay bumalik na sa 4-5% unemployment rate (We are targeting to bring down the unemployment rate to 4-5% next year),” he said.

Meanwhile, the number of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who lost their jobs due to the pandemic reached 647,827, according to Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III. The number represents 19% of the 3.5 million documented OFWs around the world.

Mr. Bello said the government has so far repatriated more than 519,000 of these “displaced” OFWs.

“They were displaced. Meaning, they lost their jobs or even if they did not lose their jobs, they could not earn a living because they were prevented from reporting to work,” he said.

Mr. Bello said about 49,000 OFWs are still in the process of repatriation while more than 79,000, mostly in Italy, United Kingdom, Germany and Spain, have chosen to stay in their host countries.

“They don’t want to go home, because many of them got vaccinated, particularly in the Middle East. So with their vaccination, the opportunity for reemployment was very high, so they opted to stay,” he said.

According to the government, there are 8.74 million Filipinos living and working abroad as of June 2020. Of this, 1.58 million are undocumented and 3.8 million are permanent migrants.

Money sent home by OFWs in February increased by an annual 5.1% to $2.477 billion, data from the central bank showed. Total cash remittance inflows in the first two months of 2021 rose 1.5% to $5.08 billion, as the United States and host countries in the Middle East and Europe reopened their economies. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza