MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday he was eyeing opening the economy in the coming "weeks" after the country has launched its COVID-19 vaccination program.
"Increased mobility must be done with utmost caution and responsibility. This is the devil and the deep blue sea tayo, but I have to reopen the economy. I’ve given a timetable of just weeks," Duterte said in a speech in Negros Oriental.
"We cannot forever be in the strict protocols because we have to open the economy. People are hungry, people have to work, to eat to survive," he added.
Duterte last month said he was considering easing pandemic curbs in Metro Manila to boost the country's battered economy once the Philippines secures a stock of at least 2 million COVID-19 shots.
Metro Manila, which accounts for a third of the country's gross domestic product, has been under the third loosest lockdown since August.
The country started imposing COVID-19 lockdowns nearly a year ago to curb the spread of the infectious disease.
The Philippines has so far secured 600,000 COVID-19 shots that China donated from Beijing-based drug maker Sinovac Biotech, and 525,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine from Britain's AstraZeneca.
Last year, the Philippines suffered its worst economic slump since World War II, as the lockdown left businesses struggling and millions jobless.