Biz leaders seek full operation in key areas

INDUSTRY leaders on Sunday endorsed the full resumption of work in several sectors, particularly construction and manufacturing, deemed crucial in the economy’s recovery in the second half of the year.

Private sector leaders polled by the BusinessMirror agreed the government should now permit some industries to return to 100 percent capacity. Authorizing the full resumption of operations in selected fields would not only generate revenue for the economy, but provide jobs as well for millions in a time of rising unemployment, they said.

American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Executive Director Ebb Hinchliffe called on policy-makers to let the construction and manufacturing sectors return full gear to supply the domestic requirements for infrastructure and finished goods.

“It’s time to open up,” Hinchliffe said. “It’s time to ramp up BBB [Build, Build, Build] and other infrastructure projects so the construction industry should be 100 percent back.”

“And to fill [in] the supply chain, manufacturing needs to be allowed to perform as needed,” he added in his text message to the BusinessMirror.

The country’s factory output in April crashed to its lowest in close to two decades, according to  data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). For that month, the entire Luzon was placed under lockdown; hence, much of economic activity in the island was suspended.

PSA data reported the volume of production index in April fell 59.8 percent, while the value of production plunged 61.4 percent—both the largest contractions since 2001.

For Makati Business Club Executive Director Coco Alcuaz, permitting public transport units to ply the roads again is the first step toward the full resumption of work. At present, only point-to-point buses, modern jeeps and a few UV Express units are allowed at limited carrying capacity to service commuters in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

“Speeding that up should be a priority because other recovery measures depend on workers being able to get to work and people being able to go places, especially for activities they can’t do electronically,” Alcuaz said.

Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. President Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis Jr. lamented the lack of public transport units has prevented manufacturers to operate even at 50 percent capacity. He said export firms are ready to return to their normal state, only for reopening to be thwarted by the unavailability of commuting means.

“They [state officials] have to see to it that priority should be getting people back to work. They have to provide the means for people to be able to travel. They try to impose a lot of rules, but do they contribute to the reopening of economy?” Ortiz-Luis asked.

Last week, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said state agencies are evaluating the proposal of hotels and restaurants to increase operational capacity in general community quarantine areas. The government is leaning toward approving the request as long as business establishments comply with health protocols in place, he disclosed.

According to Lopez, allowing firms to improve operational capacity would result in the return to work for millions of jobless Filipinos. Based on the PSA’s April Labor Force Survey, unemployment rate in the Philippines swelled to 17.7 percent, from 5.1 percent during the same period last year. This translated to at least 7.25 million unemployed Filipinos, most of whom lost their jobs during the lockdown.

Whether the country is fit to further reopen the economy from a public health perspective is a different question, however, with local Covid-19 cases close to breaching the 42,000 mark as of Saturday.

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