MANILA — Palace spokesman Harry Roque on Wednesday clarified his recent remark that Filipinos have been on a nearly year-long "vacation" due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Roque made the statement in connection to President Rodrigo Duterte's recent move to classify canceling traditional holidays on Nov. 2, Dec. 24, and Dec. 31 in a bid to support economic recovery.
"Napakatagal na po nating nakabakasyon, halos isang taon na tayong nagbakasyon dahil sa COVID-19," he said in an online briefing on Tuesday.
"Siguro naman po, ngayong andito na ang bakuna, hayaan naman nating maka-recover tayo for lost time."
(We have been on vacation for too long, we have been on vacation for almost a year because of COVID-19. Perhaps now that the vaccine is here, allow us to recover for lost time.)
Following public criticism of his statement online, Roque said the context for his statement was the unemployment that the pandemic caused.
"Ang konteksto lang nito, talagang maraming tao ang hindi nakapaghanapbuhay dahil dito sa pandemiyang ito. Kaya nga ninanais ng economic team na makahabol naman tayo, at iyon po ang konteksto na aking sinabi," he said in a media interview.
(The context of this is many people are not able to work because of this pandemic. That's why the economic team wants us to catch up, and that is the context of what I said.)
"Hindi naman po talaga bakasyon 'yan, kung hindi, hindi nakapagtatrabaho. Kaya ngayon na pupuwede na po tayong makapagtrabaho sana dahil nagbubukas na tayo ng ekonomiya, hayaan naman nating kumita at makapagtrabaho ang ating mga kababayan," he said in a media interview.
(That is not really a vacation, but rather, failure to earn a living. Now that we can work because we are reopening the economy, let us allow our compatriots to earn and work.)
With All Souls’ Day, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve classified as special working days, workers will no longer get additional holiday pay equal to 30 percent of their daily basic wage, Sen. Risa Hontiveros had said in urging the Palace to reconsider its decision.
"Tingnan po natin kung ano’ng mangyayari. Nothing is etched in stone naman po," Roque said on Tuesday. "Tingnan natin, baka naman dahil may bakuna na, makabalik na tayo sa dati at baka hindi na natin kailangan maghabol pa."
(Let's see what will happen. Nothing is etched in stone. Let's see, perhaps now that we have vaccines, we can return to normal and will no longer need to work double time.)
Lengthy lockdowns to stop the spread of COVID-19 have lead to the Philippine economy's worst post-war slump of -9.5 percent last year.
The Philippines on Monday started its coronavirus inoculation program, courtesy of China's donation of 600,000 COVID-19 shots from Beijing-based drug maker Sinovac Biotech.