Premature reopening of businesses may lead to another lockdown, warns business leader

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 23) - Despite the efforts of the government to revive the economy hit hard by the pandemic, a leading businessman said it would not be advisable to prematurely reopen businesses after the lockdown.

“A lot of things have to be considered. I think the government is doing the right thing by weighing the people’s health and safety versus that of the economy,” Globe Telecom CEO Ernest Cu told CNN Philippines’ The Final Word.

“The rate of decrease and increase for that matter of cases in a daily basis, I think we have stabilized pretty much, and the increase of testing," he added. "Signs are positive.”

Yet, Cu said that reopening of businesses once the enhanced community quarantine is lifted might lead to another lockdown. 

“As a business person we would like to see the economy open up, but you know we don’t also want to see it open up prematurely and go back to a lockdown soon after,” he said.

The Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine was extended until April 30 to further contain the spread of COVID-19. President Rodrigo Duterte will announce Friday whether it will extended again or relaxed.

Some lawmakers are pushing for another extension of the lockdown. On the other hand, Presidential Adviser on Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion proposed a gradual resumption of operations of commercial establishments while enforcing social distancing.

The Philippine Institute for Development Studies also recommended a gradual relaxation of quarantine restrictions to restart economic activity.

The community quarantine also led to deferment of due dates for some services like water, electricity, and telecommunication.

Globe is one of the companies that extended deadline of payments for its clients and subscribers.

Cu admitted that the telecommunication company is under pressure for deferring due dates. But Globe’s good cash balance will let it weather lockdown, he said.

“That will definitely put pressure on Globe." he said. "However, we came into this lockdown and this crisis with a strong balance sheet...and telco, coming out of the ECQ, will be one of the industries that will perform quite well."