MANILA— Restaurant owners are disappointed with the extension of the Alert Level 3 in Metro Manila but they remain optimistic as cases of COVID-19 continue to improve.
Resto PH president Eric Teng said restaurants are seeking a shift to looser restrictions under Alert Level 2 to help businesses bounce back from the pandemic drag.
“We're asking for Alert Level 2 because in that sense, malaki po ang capacity (there's bigger capacity) and it will allow more people to go to restaurants, and one of them are unvaccinated children,” Teng said on Teleradyo Saturday.
Malacañang on Friday announced that the capital region will remain under Alert Level 3 until Nov. 14.
Restaurants under current restrictions are allowed to accept diners up to 30 percent capacity for fully vaccinated people and 50 percent for outdoor dining regardless of vaccination status.
“I’m disappointed but I think I understand naman po dahil nga po sa Undas. It’s better to be cautious dahil napakaraming kababayan natin ang kailangang lumuwas papunta sa kanilang probinsiya o kanilang bayan kaya maybe it's better now na alert level 3 muna and maybe wait for another week or two bago natin baguhin for sana alert level 2,” said Teng.
(I’m disappointed but I think I understand because it's Undas. It’s better to be cautious as many people are going home to their provinces or towns and maybe it's better now to keep alert level 3 and maybe wait for another week or two before we downgrade it to alert level 2.)
Under Alert Level 2, restaurants can go up to 50 percent of capacity indoors, on top of the 20 percent now that Metro Manila has over 70 percent vaccination rate. Another 10 percent is given to establishments that have government’s COVID-19 Safety Seal.
“It won’t be normal for us until we reach 100 percent. It will not be profitable until we reach close to 100 percent because meron pa tayong curfew, transport restriction, so people still cannot go out and about,” he stressed.
He said they “cannot go into that normalcy” even if given higher capacity if people are still restricted.
“But as I said, we're very hopeful and optimistic that because of the current situation with the low daily case numbers we are getting there one day at a time,” he said.
Teng said staff of many of their members have been vaccinated, and unvaccinated workers are not allowed to work under Alert Level 3.
But Teng clarified that this is not permanent nor a call for the termination of unvaccinated workers.
“It’s a temporary status during alert level 3. We're not clear if in alert level 2 if that restriction will be relaxed, if unvaccinated employee will be allowed to work in service areas like restaurants because our industry is one of those restricted by COVID because they perceive us to have more risks. If that’s the case, they would allow us more mitigation practices para mabawasan ang risk na 'yun (to lessen that risk) and one of them is to allow vaccinated people for now,” he said.
The justice department on Thursday said employers can’t fire nor withhold the pay of unvaccinated workers. This, after Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III made contradicting statements as to whether businesses with dine-in and in-person services can fire or withhold salaries of their employees.
Bello said on Thursday last week that a new IATF resolution which allows restaurants and personal care services to operate at a certain capacity if their workers are fully vaccinated may be used as legal basis to implement a “no vaccine, no work” or “no vaccine, no pay” policy.
Teng appealed to colleagues in the industry to not terminate workers because of their vaccination status.
“We encourage our people in the industry 'wag naman sanang i-terminate ang mga unvaccinated. Bigyan po natin ng ibang trabaho. Pwede naman sila sa delivery sa office of other functions, hindi lang po pwede sa loob ng restaurant,” he said.
(We encourage our people in the industry to not terminate unvaccinated workers. Give them other jobs. Assign them in the office or to other functions, just not inside the restaurant.)