Billionaire Razon says Philippines should allow some businesses to reopen

Cathy Yang and Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 22 2020 11:16 AM | Updated as of Apr 22 2020 02:32 PM

Ports tycoon Enrique Razon Jr. speaks during a World Economic Forum event in Manila on May 23, 2014. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA -- Billionaire Enrique Razon said Wednesday businesses that can test their employees for COVID-19 and bring them to work should be allowed to reopen, as the government weighs the "tough choice" between saving lives and keeping the economy from dying.

A second lockdown will be "disastrous" and will need an additional P1 trillion in government spending "just to keep things intact," Razon said in an exclusive interview with ANC.

"We are really, proverbially, between a rock and a hard place. It’s a tough choice. We let the economy die or we let the people die. It’s really a terrible choice to make," he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte is to decide within the week on the extension or modification of the Luzon lockdown, which is scheduled to end on April 30.

There is "no question" that the Philippines is in a recession and a second lockdown could lead to a depression, said Razon who controls port operator International Container Terminal Services Inc and casino business Bloomberry Resorts.

Companies with zero infections and those that can handle their employees should be allowed to reopen, including manufacturing, hotels and construction, he said.

Public transportation is a concern since it can allow the virus to spread, he said.

"If you move the virus around in society through public transportation, I think a second lockdown could be really disastrous to the economy," he said.

Duterte will spend P200 billion to P400 billion from budget realignments and savings of government firms to stimulate the economy and provide billions in cash aid to the poor and small businessmen.

The Philippines as of Tuesday confirmed 6,599 COVID-19 cases, of whom 437 died and 653 recovered. Reuters tallied 2.5 million cases and 172,927 deaths globally.

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Catch the full interview on ANC at 8 p.m. on April 29, as The Boss looks ahead to the new normal for the economy with the COVID-19 pandemic.