News Release

NEDA chief: Gov’t should loosen restrictions to boost economy

The government should carry out a policy balancing its fight against the spread of the coronavirus and reviving the economy, the acting chief of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said on Monday.

During a presentation to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte aired Monday night, acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua made a recommendation to put the country under a less restrictive modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) to boost the economy.

“Iyong aking ibabahagi ‘yong kailangan po natin mag-shift sana sa lalong madaling panahon to MGCQ for the entire Philippines. Sana starting March 1, 2021 para i-address po ‘yong hunger or ‘yong mataas na antas ng mga Pilipino po na nagugutom,” Chua said in his presentation.

He said that the government’s quarantine restriction since March 2020 has resulted in a total income loss of P1.04 trillion last year, with an average daily loss of P2.8 billion.

On average, the annual income loss for every worker is P23,000 per worker, Chua said, noting that since the government restricted some sectors from operating, many workers lost their jobs.

Losing jobs impacted on workers’ income as well as on their livelihood, he said. “So ang recommendation po namin ay dapat ibalanse po natin.”

Citing a November Pulse Asia survey, Chua said 73 percent of those surveyed said the government has to balance the opening of the economy and the control of the virus.

“So hindi po naman natin sinasabi na ibukas lang natin ‘yong ekonomiya at huwag na nating pakialaman ‘yong COVID cases kailangan po natin both,” he said.

“At nakita po natin na nagbukas po tayo last October at ‘yong dumaan po ‘yong Christmas vacation, hindi po naman umakyat ‘yong COVID cases.”

NEDA has spelled out recommendations, which were already approved by the IATF, hoping that the President will also approve the proposal.

Among the recommendations are the further opening of the economy to MGCQ for the entire Philippines, especially NCR starting March 21 aimed at mitigating or lessening sickness, hunger, poverty, job and income losses arising from non-COVID cases.

Chua has suggested using localized lockdown in the barangay or municipal levels to address the local spread of the coronavirus.

The government should also open more public transport routes with proper safeguards to help workers, Chua said, adding public transport capacity should be expanded from 50 percent to 75 percent.

Inter-province bus operation must be augmented and bike lanes must also be set up to help workers using alternative forms of transportation.

The government should also allow more people to go out by expanding the age group allowed in public places. This must be done, however, with corresponding safeguards, according to Chua.

“Iyong safeguard naman, puwede lang lumabas ‘yong kabataan with their parents only, or initially, they can go out to more open areas at hindi naman ibig sabihin na pupunta sila sa malls,” he said.

“Pero kung puwede pong lumabas ‘yong kabataan with safeguards, it will allow also their parents to work and get a job.”

There is an ongoing discussion with Metro Manila mayors to gradually expand the age group allowed to go out. Currently, only those aged 15 to 65 are allowed in public places. Chua suggested for a gradual expansion from aged five to 70. PND