Duterte says rising COVID-19 cases might prompt business closures
MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday appealed to big businesses to continue paying their workers as the government moved to limit work to “home arrangements” in the whole of the northern Philippine island of Luzon to contain the spread of the new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Duterte, in a public address, called on business firms to give their employees their 13th-month pay even if it’s pro-rated, or even half of their monthly salaries for them to survive the possible loss of income during the “enhanced community quarantine” period in Luzon.
“The problem really is the economy. Maybe you can consider paying the 13th-month pay or just paying them maski kalahati sa sweldo nila kung talagang walang trabaho, as a way of showing your solidarity to the Filipino at this critical time,” he said.
“We want to do business, we want to make money...but there is no interaction now and there is no trade to speak of,” he said.
The President said big businesses should help small and medium enterprises affected by the disease outbreak.
“Kindly cooperate. Mas mabuti pa tumulong muna kayo. I will repay you with a good heart in the coming days. To the private sector, I have this appeal, magbayahinan kayo,” he said.
The President's former aide, Sen. Christopher “Bong” G, earlier pushed for a similar policy, urging companies to release 13th-month pay to workers in advance.
Duterte placed the entire Luzon under a tougher quarantine which meant strict home confinement in all households, suspended transportation lines, regulated provision for food and essential health services, and heightened presence of uniformed personnel to enforce isolation procedures.
“I am placing the entire mainland of Luzon under quarantine until April 12, 2020 coinciding with the entire end of the Holy Week. Let me make myself clear, this is not martial law,” he said.
Establishments offering basic services and goods, meanwhile, will be allowed to operate, Duterte clarified.
The President announced the new directive following a meeting with the government inter-agency task force leading the country’s response to the outbreak, and just 2 days since Metro Manila was placed under “community quarantine.” He earlier declared a state of public health emergency in the whole country due to the disease.
Under the general community quarantine earlier imposed, movement of people is limited only to accessing basic necessities and work, and the presence of uniformed personnel and quarantine officers.
POSSIBLE BUSINESS SHUTDOWNS
Duterte warned that the rapid spread of the virus is “dangerous” and might prompt the closure of businesses. He urged establishments to cooperate with government guidelines.
The President expressed his frustration over hundreds of commuters who crowded the streets on Monday for work, saying close contact will not help in controlling the spread of the disease.
“Papaano natin matigilan ang contagion kung sige kayo labas nang labas, tapos you mingle with the others? Makita mo naman the crowded queues created ng mga gustong sumakay,” he said.
Hundreds in Metro Manila faced community quarantine woes on Monday—ranging from cramped public utility vehicles to checkpoint problems—on the first day of the work week under the stricter measures.
“Kung maari lang po, stay home and for the businesses kapag lumala ito, you better close down your business. That’s an order because you will also help in propagating the disease instead of helping. ‘Yan ang order ko sa inyo,” Duterte said.
As of Monday night, the Philippines has recorded a total of 142 cases of COVID-19, with 12 deaths.
More areas outside Metro Manila have also declared quarantine measures against the new disease that has infected more than 160,000 people and claimed the lives of nearly 6,500 worldwide.
"I solemnly urge everyone to pray to the almighty God, who has the power to defeat any enemy, visible or invisible. Pray for all doctors, and health professionals, workers. Pray for your government, for the country," Duterte said.
"Let us remain strong, united in spirit, to fight this dreaded disease," he added.