Philippines eyes further easing of restrictions in urban hubs to resuscitate economy

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 30 2020 03:19 PM

Additional buses ply along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City on June 22, 2020, to accommodate more commuters amid the general community quarantine. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- The Philippines is eyeing to further ease virus restrictions particularly in urban hubs to resuscitate the economy dragged down by the coronavirus pandemic, Malacañang said Tuesday.

The government's inter-agency task force (IATF) on pandemic response adopted on Monday the recommendations presented by economic managers for wider business activity which aim to "ensure that there is a balance between health and economy."

"Importanteng mabuksan na ang ekonomiya nang magsimula na po tayo doon sa pagbangon mula sa ating lockdown. Kinakailangan na pong buhayin talaga ang ating ekonomiya," Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said in a Palace press briefing.

(It's important to open the economy so we can start to recover from the lockdown. We need to reopen the economy.)

Among the recommendations adopted by the IATF include consultations with local government units of Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and the Southern Tagalog Region for the easing of their community quarantine status.

The three regions are currently under general community quarantine with some parts of Central Luzon under the more relaxed modified GCQ.

Metro Manila alone, home to a tenth of the country's 100 million people, accounts for a third of the gross domestic product.

The Southern Tagalog region meanwhile is home to several economic zones and industrial plants, while Central Luzon produces most of the country's rice supply.

Following the easing of lockdowns this month, the government has geared its coronavirus response to restoring economic confidence and activity after the country's economy shrank in the first quarter, the first in 22 years.

Unemployment also ballooned to a record 17.7 percent equivalent to 7.3 million jobless Filipinos.

In further reopening the economy, the government is looking at expanding its COVID-19 testing strategy to boost public confidence.

"Kailangan magkaroon ng kumpiyansa na ang mga magtatrabaho naman ay walang sakit kaya po importante na mas palawakin pa iyong testing natin," Roque said.

(Workers need to have confidence that they are not sick so we need to expand our testing.)

Other mitigation measures adopted by the government are the strict enforcement of minimum public health standards, protection of vulnerable populations, maximizing testing and contact tracing, and "full support" of strategic communications.

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