A lively debate has begun between government and private businesses, which are among the most heavily hit by the community quarantine, on the relaxing of the stay-at-home order.
In the absence of the vaccine, the only two human interventions against the highly contagious and lethal coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is to deny it from jumping from one person to another through city lockdowns and the physical distancing rule.
Businesses have estimated more than P4 billion in losses for the tourism industry alone during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and up to P235 billion in foregone economic output as a result of the one-month isolation of Luzon island.
A meeting among members of the Inter-Agency Task Force against the pandemic and members of the business sector produced a proposal to lift the quarantine over Luzon while keeping the borders of Metro Manila closed.
Those pushing for the freeing of the Luzon island argued that since 75 percent of cases are clustered in Metro Manila and 10 percent in the CALABARZON area, the other parts of Luzon can manage a lifting of the quarantine.
Some signs are pointing to the infection abating but a second wave of infection is what most Filipinos fear.
A massive infection, according to a National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) study, will result to “a cumulative loss of P428.7 billion to P1.356 trillion in gross value added, equivalent to 2.1 to 6.6 percent of nominal gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020.”
The range depends on when the plague ends with minimal government intervention. Pro-business United States President Donald Trump appears to have taken the path preferable to trade groups by allowing mostly free choice among states on what steps to take.
Such a policy had proven to be disastrous in the Philippines as clashing guidelines often result to the overall aim of the national government being violated.
The NEDA study points to hard decisions to be made by government in the coming days if the state of the economy is considered.
“Attaining the upper bound of 4.3 percent growth rate for 2020 is possible only if we are able to stem the impact of COVID-19 and the enhanced community quarantine to the rest of the economy.
By extension, if the enhanced community quarantine is extended beyond one month, or if the spread of COVID-19 is unabated even after the enhanced community quarantine, then even the low-end of the estimate is still too high,” according to the study.
President Rody Duterte, however, has proven his strong will in making tough decisions such as in imposing the community quarantine ahead of other countries where the situation is worse.
Rody said the government has enough resources to sustain subsidies and has provided a two-month assistance to the poor and those displaced during the quarantine period.
Nonetheless, he said that if the outbreak remains out of control for six months then he would hang himself along with lawyer Chel Diokno at Luneta Park since then the budget for public aid would run out.
The message of the President is that the blight should be ended as soon as possible before the lifting of the various means of intervention is considered.
It is clear, based on the NEDA study, that losses to the economy would be far more with a runaway infection compared to the backlash of the enhanced community quarantine.
The great American leader President Abraham Lincoln has a simple philosophy when faced with such competing views saying, “Good things come to those who wait, but only what’s left from those who hustle.”