MANILA - Besides the restrictions on business activities, the lack of face-to-face classes also affected the country’s economy, one of the Philippines’ economic managers said on Wednesday.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua also told senators that the country had been “too narrowly focused” on containing COVID-19, and this led to economic losses.
During Senate deliberations on the budget of the National Economic and Development Authority, Chua said that apart from preventing businesses from operating, quarantines also prevented children from going to school and that this was “also a driver of economic loss.”
“In a country with a very young population, 40 percent studying [but] cannot study face to face, then you will see the economic consequence,” told senators.
The Philippines is the only country in Asia that has yet to resume face-to-face classes. The Department of Education however will implement limited face-to-face classes for select schools starting Nov. 15.
Last month, Chua released a study that said the education sector lost P230 billion in the 2020 to 2021 school year due to lack of face-to-face schooling, school closures and teachers' job losses.
He also estimated that total losses from the lack of face-to-face classes would reach P11.025 trillion over the next 40 years.
The NEDA chief said that he had been pushing for “better balancing” of both COVID and non-COVID concerns, and had called for localized quarantines instead of "blanket" lockdowns.
“I think in the past we have been too narrowly focused on COVID and this has led to other consequences,” Chua said, mentioning job losses and diminished incomes.
Economic managers have also “pushed very hard” to further reopen the economy, he said.
Chua also told senators that the government could only give so much aid to firms affected by the pandemic, as what was needed was to let businesses resume their activities.
“That is why I think the more sustainable way to help businesses is to first open the economy. We have restricted them for more than 18 months already.”
Various business groups representing cinema operators, restaurants, gyms, salons and others in the service industry are calling on the government to lower the quarantine alert level in Metro Manila and let businesses operate again with allowed greater capacity.