2-week extension of ECQ proposed

AN economist congressman on Friday sought a two-week extension of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon as he reiterated his mass testing call for coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19), saying a premature lifting is against science, economics, and history.

Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, chairman of the House committee on ways and means, said extending ECQ over Luzon is the more cautious approach in terms of historic, scientific, and economic to COVID-19 pandemic and is “evidence-based, logical, and lifesaving”

“Look – I’m as invested in getting the economy running as anybody would be. Ako po ang unang mamomroblemang maghanap ng pondo bilang ways and means chairman kapag hindi maganda ang ekonomiya. But a premature lifting of the ECQ would not be good for the economy. It will not fulfill our public health objectives. And it risks getting us back to square zero in terms of our progress in fighting this disease,” said Salceda.

Salceda cited his team’s modeling that shows two critical factors in fighting the COVID-19 – mobility and “isolation tendency.”

“May dalawa pong factor tayong binabantayan. The ECQ has significantly reduced mobility. You can see that in reduced energy consumption and in reduced demand for fuel. So, people are no longer moving around carrying the virus as much as they would have,” Salceda explained.

“The second critical factor is what we call isolation tendency. It’s how much you isolate confirmed and suspected cases from the rest of the population. And that only increases once you know who are COVID-positive in the first place, through mass testing,” Salceda pointed out.

Salceda said that the most reputable sources in the medical community have never suggested “to shorten the lockdown,” but have done quite the opposite, proposing at least 6-week lockdowns to avoid prematurely lifting restrictions and triggering a massive wave of new infections.

“The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation says we can keep lockdowns to 6 to 10 weeks, if countries do well. The Hubei lockdowns which worked remarkably were 6 to 8-week shutdowns. And Northern Italy has been on lockdown since March 9, with no end in sight yet,” said Salceda.

Deputy Speaker and 1-Pacman party-list Rep. Mikee Romero, said publicly-traded funds must remain in public to keep financial system liquid and help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) recover.

“Funds must be liquid. Closing down the stock market is tantamount to making public funds private. The PSE (Philippine Stock Exchange) cut stock market time to 9 am to 1 pm. That's alright, but they have to remain open Monday to Friday. Liquidity in the stock market must continue and public funds have to be traded publicly every day,” said Romero, President of the 54-strong Party-list Coalition Foundation, Inc. (PCFI).

Romero said the stock market should be open because of its character of being a public exchange.

“Closing down the stock market makes the stocks traded private. Making stocks private closes the market liquidity in the country. With stock market trading already being all virtual there is no people to people contact anymore,” Romero explained.

“One way to keep the economy moving is to make sure the funds keep circulating. Our country's financial system is intact. The system has to remain liquid, so it must stay open. The national government is readying the details of its economic stimulus package. This package will primarily target the micro, small and medium enterprises,” Romero stressed. 

“Our stock market and the national economy have been through many slumps before and even in those slumps there were profits to be made, companies grew, markets expanded, and new opportunities were discovered,” said Romero.

“There are two opportunities that come to mind. One, we need a working Farm Commodities Trading Board for the electronic trading of rice, corn, vegetables, fish, and livestock. This Farm Commodities Trading Board would be our country's systemic solution to supply, demand, and price fluctuations during normal times and crisis periods. The PSE and Agriculture Department have been working on this for a number of years now. It is high time that the groundwork be laid soon after the front end of the COVID-19 crisis is over,” he said.

“On top of the minimum 30-days postponement on the bills payments, I suggest to the IATF (Interagency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) and the economic agencies to require staggered payment of the accumulated debt. Now is not the time to cripple or further disable our MSMEs. Staggered payments will give the small businesses time to get their financial house in order, help them recover, and keep their employees, thereby reducing unemployment,” said Romero.