MANILA - Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez on Monday said at least 90,000 businesses in the Philippines remain closed half a year after the country imposed a lockdown in the capital region and several provinces to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Between August and September, 6 percent of the 1.4 million micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the country remain closed, Lopez told senators during the Department of Trade and Industry's budget hearing in the Senate.
"Six percent is a big number because that should be zero," he said.
"It's true that it's still not a rosy picture pagdating sa (when it comes to) business confidence and unemployment," he said.
Despite having the longest COVID-19 lockdown in the world, the Philippines remains to be the epicenter of the global pandemic in Southeast Asia.
The months-long lockdown has led to the downsizing of several job-generating industries like construction, retail, tourism, and aviation.
The DTI chief appealed to lawmakers to help him push for the full reopening of several sectors - like the film industry - which were allowed to operate under limited capacity.
"I am not against the lockdown. It helped us reduce the statistics [of COVID-19]... My only hope is hindi na natin dapat patagalin pa (we should no longer prolong it)," Lopez said.
"I understand it is not a popular appeal especially to health workers but if we keep enforcement still strict... I believe we can safely reopen," he said.
About 99 percent of all businesses in the Philippines are classified as micro, small and medium entities, according to data from the DTI.
These small businesses heavily affected by the COVID-19 lockdown employ 65 percent of workers in the country, Senate Ways and Means chair Pia Cayetano said in plenary.
"If we reopen more, allow more workers to come in, we can bring back jobs and income that will stimulate economy," Lopez said.