Gatchalian backs extended enhanced ECQ

THE chairman of the House committee on trade and industry on Friday backed the extension until May 15 of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) after its scheduled lifting on April 30, 2020 subject to certain policy modifications on manufacturing, supply chain, logistics, and food security.

“We understand that the health of the people is a primary concern but an efficient balance of both the consumers (demand) and industries (supply) of the trade and industry sector and the health concerns is vital because favoring health over commerce, or commerce over health, is counterproductive. An extended ECQ is the better option at this time, but measures must be in place to ensure a balance of the priorities between these sectors,” said Valenzuela City Rep. Wes Gatchalian, the panel chairman.

In a survey recently conducted by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce, Inc. (PCCI), Gatchalian said 51.43% of their respondent-manufacturers are currently operating during the implementation of the ECQ, while the rest or 48.57% are under total shutdown.

Out of the 51.43% that are currently operating, only 27% are operating beyond 50% capacity while more than half of these manufacturers are operating at less than 10% of their normal capacity.

“We can jumpstart the economy by allowing some industries to begin operating again, and the workforce to work again, while at the same time still protect the health of the people by requiring social distancing, mass testing, and contact tracing,” said Gatchalian.

Based on the data published by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) and mapped by Publicus Asian, Inc., Gatchalian said the National Capital Region (NCR) accounts for more than a third of the Philippines’ GDP (gross domestic product of 38%), while its neighboring regions, the Central Luzon and the CALABARZON account for 28% of the country’s GDP.

He said these three regions, which form the Greater Metro Manila Area (GMMA) accounts for approximately 62% of the country’s GDP.

This data implies that any more prolonged disruption to the GMMA will cause major economic disruption and will affect the entire country, he said.

It may put the Philippines in a situation that may take decades to recover from, according to Gatchalian.

Gatchalian said the continued lockdown will drive manufacturing of food supply down threatening the country’s food security.

He said allowing manufacturers to operate beyond a skeletal workforce, as assured by the DTI, is only one part of the solution.

According to him, without any changes in our current ECQ policy, it will threaten the country’s long-term economic growth.

“Jumpstarting a limited manufacturing industry, requires the government to ensure the unhampered movement of its cargoes and personnel. Guidelines that allow driver-only vehicles to pass through checkpoints may cause more harm than good because since public transportation was suspended, enterprises have resorted to carpooling their personnel to get to and from their place of businesses,” he said.

Gatchalian suggested that as an alternative, in order to maintain health and security - DTI must implement policies allowing manufacturing establishments to operate only if they can provide food and shelter for their workers.

He said the shelter should be inside or adjacent to the premises of the workplace so that the movement of people is limited and social distancing can be maintained. If manufacturers cannot ensure this measure, they cannot re-open until the ECQ is lifted so that health policies currently in place will not be jeopardized.