The Philippines should gradually reopen the economy and allow businesses to operate at 50% capacity to save jobs, according to Teresita Sy-Coson who helps run an empire ranging from banking to retail under SM Investments Corp.
More than 1 million workers were affected by temporary closures, prompting 98% of almost 42,000 establishments to seek assistance for their employees, the Labor Department said in a statement on Sunday. About a quarter of those displaced are in the capital region, it said.
President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the main island of Luzon, home to 60 million people and which accounts for 70% of the economy, on lockdown from mid-March, shuttering thousands of businesses. Provinces outside Luzon have also imposed quarantine measures. Gross domestic product could shrink by as much as 1%, its first contraction in more than two decades, according to a government estimate.
“If all the industries can start operating 50%, including the transport, with all the medical precautions – like making test kits more available and disinfecting measures and sanitation safeguards – then we can gradually increase the employment” after the lockdown, Sy-Coson said in an e-mailed statement on April 11.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello asked big businesses on Sunday to continue paying their employees amid the lockdown. The majority of affected workers were in manufacturing, hospitality, restaurants and tourism-related sectors.
The breakdown of those affected were:
- 719,649 workers in 31,612 establishments that halted operations
- 366,404 workers in 10,224 enterprises that had to go into flexible work arrangements
Enabling establishments to reopen is important to help absorb Filipino workers returning from abroad, Sy-Coson said. More than 11,000 Filipinos working overseas have returned home since February, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a Facebook post.
“Employment is also the key to the health of their families by having enough food for their own immunity, and the key to the health of our economy,” she said.