MANILA – Despite doubts on its constitutionality from legal experts, a presidential adviser again pushed for limiting access to malls, restaurants and other establishments and services in Metro Manila to only those who have been vaccinated.
Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion insisted on Wednesday that his "safer bubbles" proposal is the best way to reopen the Philippine economy.
“This is the pathway that we feel will open up the economy safely without any more lockdowns--by only allowing the vaccinated who are protected, and these are the people who can create economic activity.”
Concepcion added that this was also a way of protecting the unvaccinated.
“How are we protecting the unvaccinated? If we allow them to go out freely and move around and get sick, what happens? They can get it severely, and they can die," Concepcion said.
"What is worse is that they will flood the capacity of the hospitals. And when that happens we know the national government will then have to lockdown,” he added.
His comments come after Justice Secretary Menardo Guevara said it was not yet time to allow the fully vaccinated more mobility, citing the equal protection clause and still limited supply of COVID-19 shots.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines has cited the same possible ground to challenge segregating the vaccinated from the unvaccinated.
The Commission on Human Rights also expressed concern that the proposal might lead to “undue discrimination.”
But according to Concepcion, former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban said there was nothing illegal with his proposal.
“I also talked to [former] Chief Justice Panganiban. He said the same thing--there’s nothing illegal about it under a state of emergency. And we are in a state of emergency as we speak because this Delta variant has changed the game. Entirely,” he said.
The palace adviser added that his proposal was limited to NCR and was not meant for the whole country, as vaccines are already pouring into the capital.
“We are not going to put this proposal in other areas where there is no supply, of course, that is ridiculous. Why will you do it just for the vaccinated when there is no supply? And I agree with Secretary Guevara that in other areas where there’s no supply, don’t do it. And that’s not the intention,” he added.
Concepcion said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque stated the Palace will consider his proposal once the National Capital Region (NCR) reaches 50 percent vaccination or what the government called "population protection."
He said both government and the private sector are doing their best to get the COVID-19 jabs to those who want them but are unable to get them.
Concepcion explained that allowing vaccinated people greater mobility will boost consumer spending and help small businesses recover, adding that the country cannot afford to keep declaring lockdowns.
“If you keep them at home, who’s going to spend? How will they pay their loans? If there’s no consumer spending, how will our MSMEs pay their loans? The banking community will stop lending because they don’t see any economic activity. The you have an economic collapse and that’s what we don’t want to happen,” he said.
“The entire Philippine economy will shake and will collapse if we continue these lockdowns,” he added.