MANILA - The Philippines "urgently" needs to further reopen its economy by relaxing more COVID-19 regulations amid a string of retrenchments among big companies in the country, the head of an employers' group said Wednesday.
According to Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) president Sergio Ortiz-Luis, the country "relies too much on lockdowns" and restrictions to curb the pandemic, arguing the casualties of the deadly disease were far fewer than the number of cases in the Philippines.
"Ilan ba ang namamatay, tumataas ba ang namamatay? Hindi naman. Bakit mo pipigain nang pipigain, papahirapan ang mga tao at ekonomiya. Hindi na kaya, hindi na kaya ng ekonomiya," he told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, adding the country is "very concerned with numbers."
Health experts earlier warned against relaxing the quarantine status of Metro Manila, the country's economic base, after acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua said the region may lower its quarantine classification in March to further reopen the Philippine economy.
Dr. Maricar Limpin, vice president ng Philippine College of Physicians, had said the decision to lower Metro Manila's quarantine classification should be based on the result of the country's vaccination program.
But the ECOP president refuted this, saying cutting down on restrictions cannot be solely based on health experts' advice.
"Hindi mo pu-pwede pagawa lang sa doctor ang balancing. Dapat 'yung balancing na 'yan pag-aralan talaga," Ortiz-Luis said.
Ortiz-Luis raised the alarm on the shutdown and downsizing of some big companies in the Philippines, saying the death toll in the country -- at more than 10,000 -- will be trivial compared to those who will die of hunger and even criminality due to loss of jobs.
"Sisiw 'yung 10,000 na namatay sa COVID compared sa mamamatay sa gutom at criminality kapag hindi natin [nabuksan] ang economy," he said.
Ortiz-Luis earlier warned that the Philippines is already in the "second wave of unemployment."
"Nakikita ko 'yong mga listahan na di ko alam kung opisyal or what, 'yong mga ibinebentang kompanya, 'yong mga kompanyang nagbabalak magsara, nakakatakot," he said.
Among the big companies that have announced plans of retrenchment was the Philippine Airlines, which will lay off about 2,300 employees. The affected personnel will continue to be employed until mid-March 2021, the flag carrier said.
Labor Sec. Silvestre Bello III also said cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris will also dismiss some 300 workers amid the ongoing pandemic that has massively affected the cigarette industry.
Business leaders have warned of a slowed growth for the Philippines, saying full recovery could take four to five years if economic reforms do not push through.