Merrier Christmas in 2021? Businessmen see population protection before holidays

Bruce Rodriguez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 09 2021 06:53 PM

A group of Philippine businesses led by entrepreneurship advocacy group Go Negosyo is seeing a "merrier Christmas" for Filipinos as they expect the country to achieve population protection against COVID-19 by September or October.

In a webinar, Go Negosyo founder and presidential adviser for entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion said government and private sector can push to further relax restrictions even before the country achieves herd immunity.

"We don't need to wait for herd immunity to happen at that point. As the private sector starts to receive its doses and I just got word from AstraZeneca that the arrival will be next week, on Friday for the AstraZeneca vaccines and that's about close to 1.17 million," Concepcion said.

He explained that if the private sector can focus on making sure 80 percent of employees in a specific office building or establishment are inoculated, then they can be allowed to resume up to 100 percent operating capacity.

Concepcion is pushing for a "micro herd immunity" in workplaces and what the private sector calls as "safe spaces".

With at least 9.75 million doses expected to arrive from AstraZeneca (2.75 million) and Moderna (4.8 million) until the end of the year, Concepcion is optimistic Filipinos can have a merrier Christmas and better New Year in terms of more relaxed mobility restrictions.

Carol Mills, president of Ayala Land's real estate investment trust subsidiary, AREIT, Inc., expressed her support to open up more safe spaces, adding government should also partner with the private sector in encouraging more employees to go back to the office.

"The multiplier effect of one full-time job, working in the office is another two to three jobs that can be multiplied in the entire workforce; definitely a huge gain for our economy," Mills said.

She added that while work-from-home arrangements are convenient, promoting more employees in the workplace can spur collaboration as well as innovation rather than isolation.

Showing investors that the Philippines can successfully boost productivity and efficiency with the gradual return of more on-site employees would also boost the country's competitiveness for investors, Mills explained.

But to ensure a safe return to normal working conditions, McDonald's Philippines managing director Margot Torres said government should prioritize the country's most economically important hubs in terms of vaccine distribution.

"We have to give it the number one priority and we believe it should start with NCR (National Capital Region) because the other factor we cannot control is the delta variant," she noted.

Torres also expressed optimism the country can achieve population protection of vaccinating 50 percent of its population by September, and herd immunity by November with the expected ramping up of vaccinations.

For LT Group president and chief operating officer Michael Tan, aside from promoting safe spaces, the private sector is also calling on for more fiscal support from government to help them cope with the pandemic and the rising costs of doing business.

"We're now faced with rising costs of imported material, shipping cost has doubled or tripled, importation cost, the peso is weakening, so we just hope that fiscal help will come sooner rather than later," Tan explained.

For one, he said, congress should quickly pass the third tranche of stimulus measures from government called 'Bayanihan 3' once it resumes session.

At least 3 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus as of July 7. 

The government aims to inoculate 58 to 70 million of the Philippines' 109 million people to safely reopen the economy, which suffered its worst postwar recession in 2020 as lockdowns against the outbreak shuttered many businesses and left scores of workers jobless.

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