MANILA - The Philippines is losing P700 million in wages and other income each day that Metro Manila and other regions remain on general community quarantine, the country’s economic planning chief said on Monday.
However, Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua said keeping these areas under GCQ was correct, at least until the country knows more about the new variants of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Metro Manila, the entire Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), and six other areas are set to remain under general community quarantine (GCQ) for the whole of February, to limit the spread of the new variant of the coronavirus.
The rest of the country meanwhile is under modified GCQ, the least restrictive of the country’s quarantine classifications.
Chua, who also heads the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), last week said the country may continue contracting in the first quarter, returning to growth only in the second quarter as “nothing significant will change.”
The NEDA chief said the country may ease quarantine restrictions only after February.
"I think after this month, we should be in a better position to relax further,” Chua said, but added that opening the economy further will still depend on both economic and health data.
Once quarantine restrictions are relaxed, Chua said, family activities with their children can resume as these are 30 to 50 percent of non-essential consumption.
Chua also ruled out any return to the stricter levels of quarantine that caused the worst contraction of the country’s GDP in the second and third quarters of 2020.
"The good news is we have lived with this virus already, so we will go through another month of GCQ but I'm confident that when the vaccine and the data that we show that we can better manage the economy by reopening further and safely," said.
Despite the 9.5 percent economic contraction in 2020 as well as expectations of a slow start for 2021, Chua was adamant the country can still achieve the projected 6.5 to 7.5 percent growth this year when vaccines are rolled out.
- Report from Bruce Rodriguez, ABS-CBN News