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Time to reopen the economy (1)

This ‘second wave,’ hospitals called for hot meals to provide nourishment for their medical and utility personnel

Joe Zaldarriaga

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After two weeks of being under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), leading businessmen, economists and entrepreneurs agree that it is high time to open the economy in a calculated manner to help those who have lost their jobs and livelihood due to the pandemic The Philippine economy was among the fastest growing in Asia before the Covid-19 pandemic, but strict and lengthy restrictions to limit the coronavirus contagion have dampened consumer spending and left millions jobless.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), some 4.5 million Filipinos became jobless due to the pandemic as the government imposed stringent lockdown to contain the spread of the new coronavirus. Reports said in January this year alone, four million Filipinos were jobless as the nation’s unemployment rate reached a 16-year-high.

Early last month, no less than President Rodrigo Duterte said during one of his sorties: “I have to reopen the economy. I’ve given a timetable of just weeks. We cannot forever be in the strict protocols because we have to open the economy. People are hungry, people have to work, to eat, to survive.”

That is exactly what the private sector is urging the government to consider now. It is about time to fully reopen, take a calculated and very careful risk, and see what happens.

Businessman and philanthropist Manuel V. Pangilinan tweeted a resounding “yes” to the idea of reopening the economy, which I fully agree with. He made an excellent point when he gave Einstein’s position of doing the same thing but expecting a different result. MVP explained that the current way of responding to the pandemic situation is unfortunately getting the worst of both worlds. He then concluded his tweet by saying we should trust our people to keep themselves sound and healthy.

The MVP Group of Companies has been at the forefront in support to the government’s fight versus Covid-19. For example, the group continues to support the war against the pandemic by delivering 24/7 power, water, telecommunications and hospital services, among others, to critical health facilities.

Tulong Kapatid, the corporate social responsibility alliance of foundations and companies under the MVP Group of Companies, has also mobilized many programs for Covid frontliners amid the alarming increase of Covid-19 cases.

The group activated the Salamat mega MVP initiative. Spearheaded by Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan and the MVP Group CSR Council, the effort aims to thank the true most valuable people in the new normal: the individuals who have been fighting tirelessly against the pandemic.

During its onset last year, Tulong Kapatid organized an immediate response to the depleting supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) in hospitals, augmenting the discrepancy by purchasing as much resources as possible. This “second wave,” hospitals called for hot meals to provide nourishment for their medical and utility personnel, a request that the group was more than willing to address.

Earlier this month, the group, comprised of Alagang Kapatid Foundation Inc., Maynilad, Metro Pacific Investments Foundation, One Meralco Foundation, and PLDT-Smart Foundation, distributed over 7,800 meals to nine hospitals under the Metro Pacific Hospitals Holdings Inc. (MPHHI), as well as to multiple and various government hospitals.

In a Viber exchange of ideas with Minimal Government Thinkers, Inc. president Bienvenido “Nonoy” Oplas, he gave great insights on why we should lift lockdowns, opening the economy.

From an economic perspective, he said, “In 2020, the Philippines was #34 largest economy in the world although we are #13 largest in population. Last year, the country was #1 worst performing economy in Asia with -9.6 percent GDP (gross domestic product) contraction, and #3 worst performing in the world’s top 40 largest economies.”

In terms of actual GDP size, the Philippines has P19.4 trillion production in 2019, went down to only P17.5 trillion in 2020. In order for the Philippines to be back at 2019 level, we should grow at least 10.5 percent in 2021, but this is almost impossible now. Most economic projections show only 5 to 6 percent growth this year.

Oplas said we have lost practically three years of growth because of very strict and indefinite lockdown.

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