Business groups bat for shift to Alert Level 1 as COVID tally falls

Jekki Pascual, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 21 2022 03:59 PM

People visit the Mall of Asia grounds in Pasay City on November 19, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
People visit the Mall of Asia grounds in Pasay City on November 19, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Several business groups on Monday said they are in favor of placing Metro Manila and other provinces under Alert Level 1, which allows all businesses to operate at full capacity as COVID-19 cases decline.

At the online Pandesal Forum, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry President George Barcelon and Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry President Henry Lim Bon Liong all agreed the country must open up the economy more.

Concepcion said there is a need to open up the economy because the government also needs more money due to the huge debt it accrued to fund its COVID-19 response. He added that more money is needed for vaccination booster shots and other related expenses.

"We have to make use of this time while cases are down to really push the economy to move up," Concepcion added.

Concepcion said further opening up the economy will accelerate growth and allow the country to reduce its debt-to-GDP ratio which is currently around 60 percent. He said this high level of debt was a "red flag."

One way to open up the economy is to further ease pandemic restrictions in areas with high vaccination rates. 

"There is no business that will not support alert level 1," Liong said. 

Concepcion asserted all establishments must now open with restaurants operating at full capacity. 

"Open up everything. Open up the casinos, open up every business out there that remains closed. That is very important. We have a lot of catching up to do," he said.

The business leaders said they also hope schools will reopen in June and that arenas and other similar sports venues will now fully operate for vaccinated individuals.

Barcelon said he is also optimistic about the country's growth prospects this year. 

He however said, if the country lowers the alert level, all sectors must be fully prepared for it. There is sometimes confusion with the different policies of government agencies and local government units, Barcelon said.

"One region could be level 2 , level 3 and they are entering level 1, what are the restrictions, what are the protocols?".

"What's important is the mobility side of for the commuter. Once we lower down to level 1, there will be more people working. And then retail establishments will be more patronized by people going to the malls or whatever. It entails people commuting. That's one factor government has to look into, to make sure there are enough transportations," Barcelon added.

Metro Manila mayors are scheduled to meet on Tuesday to talk about the possibility of placing the capital region under Alert Level 1.

The Philippines' daily tally of new COVID infections has fallen since the omicron-fueled surge in mid-January.

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