LOCAL BUSINESS LEADERS said the Philippine capital region should be placed under the most relaxed alert level soon to allow businesses to fully reopen and help in the economy’s recovery from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. 

Alert Level 1 should be enforced in the National Capital Region (NCR), Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) President George T. Barcelon told an online news briefing on Monday, adding that easing restrictions must be supported by increased public transport capacity.

“We are in favor of lowering down the alert level, but cognizant of the fact that the virus is still around. So, what’s important is the mobility side of it — for the commuter,” he said. 

“Once we go down to Alert Level 1, there will be more people working. The retail establishments will be patronized by more people going to the malls. It entails people commuting and that is one factor that the government has to look into to make sure that there is enough public transportation,” he added. 

Malacañang has kept NCR under Alert Level 2 until Feb. 28. More business establishments may increase operating capacities from 50% to 70% depending on whether activities are indoors or outdoors. 

Once the government approves the shift to Alert Level 1, businesses may operate at 100% capacity as long as minimum public health standards are followed.

Henry Lim Bon Liong, Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII) president, said the country still needs to be cautious amid efforts to reopen the economy, 

“There is no businessman that will not support Alert Level 1. In fact, I think that without even doing anything, the government would really lift the Alert Level 2 already as early as the end of February. By March, we should see Alert Level 1 already,” he said. 

“We still have to be cautious, but at least not overcautious that it will really affect our economy,” he added. 

The Health department reported 1,427 COVID-19 infections on Monday, bringing the active caseload to 58,657.

Meanwhile, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Jose Ma. “Joey” A. Concepcion III said the country needs to open all businesses to boost economic recovery. 

“Open up everything. Open up the casinos. Open up every business out there that remains closed. That is very important. We have a lot of catching up to do,” he said. 

“This March, we move down to Alert Level 1. All businesses, hopefully open. Capacities for restaurants move up to 100%. And even for call centers and business process outsourcing, we have to allow more capacity in these because they become more viable and more competitive as we compete in that market,” he added. 

The Philippine economy grew by 5.6% in 2021, a reversal from the 9.6% contraction in 2020. The government is targeting 7-9% gross domestic product growth this year. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave