MANILA – The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday said the country is “more ready” for the consequences of a reopening of the economy than for the impacts of another hard lockdown.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda made the statement after conducting several studies on the “evolving numbers, emerging scenarios, and national strategies” to combat the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), as well as discussions with scientists, chaos theorists, and economists if the enhanced community quarantine is lifted in mid-May.
“Human behavior in our institutions and in the public has begun to be more prepared for the ups and downs of an epidemic,” he said.
He said as the country moves gradually from quarantine to a “cautious path toward recovery”, necessary precautions must be taken to avoid large waves of infection that may necessitate more lockdowns.
“But first, I hope government strategists would steel our nerves during episodic spikes in cases and not fall for the easy default of an unplanned lockdown which we can only do at the expense of resources for our recovery. Localized maybe but LGU (local government unit)-managed not barangay-directed,” he added.
He said that the national task force against coronavirus disease (Covid-19) should continue to increase testing, tracing, and treatment to achieve the 8,000 per day target by May 15 and the 30,000 daily targets by May 30.
He noted that low-cost non-pharmaceutical interventions should be enforced such as the mandatory wearing of face masks, physical distancing, and frequent handwashing, among others.
Salceda said all hospitals must remain prepared for surges, acquire ventilators for areas where infection waves remain likely and must stockpile enough personal protective equipment to protect health care workers.
To combat the economic shocks of the pandemic, he said the approval of the proposed economic stimulus package would bring back the Philippines on its “previous growth path”.
Salceda said the first-quarter gross domestic product figures, which contracted by 0.2 percent, mark the first decline in more than two decades, noting that “this crisis is unprecedented, and will require similarly unprecedented action.”
“Let us pass an economic recovery plan that will put us back on our previous growth path. Let us also take this opportunity to see where our economic weaknesses lie and strengthen them with necessary structural reforms,” he said.
“Congress will work hand in hand with the executive to get an economic recovery plan passed, hopefully in a matter of weeks. Consumer and business confidence will be key, so government action must inspire confidence in the people,” he added.
The PHP485-billion economic stimulus package will include PHP20 billion for test kits to build up consumer and business confidence; PHP130 billion worth of loans under Landbank of the Philippines, Development Bank of the Philippines, Small Business Corp., and Philippine Guarantee Corp.; PHP25 billion capitalization for National Development Corp.; PHP150 billion for individual subsidies under Department of Labor and Employment and PHP160 billion for sectoral assistance.
The Philippine Statistics Authority reported on Thursday that the main contributors to the first-quarter economic growth decline were manufacturing, transportation and storage, and accommodation and food service activities.
Among the major economic sectors, agriculture, forestry and fishing; and industry contracted by 0.4 percent and 3 percent, respectively. (IA/PNA)