Economic team must work to safely reopen economy further within GCQ framework — Nograles

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 23) — Economic officials need to work within the context of certain areas still under general community quarantine and further reopen the economy safely under this framework, said Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.

During a virtual briefing, Nograles said that while President Rodrigo Duterte understands the need ro resume economic activities, he believes in a “step-by-step” approach, the first step being the commencement of the national vaccine drive. He must see this firsthand before reconsidering a modified GCQ status for the whole country, said the Cabinet official.

Delays have hounded the delivery of vaccine doses to the Philippines, but the government is hopeful Sinovac's COVID-19 vaccine might arrive in a few days' time given the recent emergency use authorization issuance by the Food and Drug Administration.

“The economic cluster, our economic managers will have to work within the context and framework ng pag-retain, sabihin natin ng GCQ sa ibang areas [of retaining say GCQ in some areas],” said Nograles, adding the said officials shall devise how the economy can further be reopened under this setting.

Nograles noted the decision to shoot down this proposal was difficult for the President, citing the need to balance both economic and health needs.

He added that the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases has also discussed the possibility of allowing higher maximum operational capacities for certain industries under the current community quarantine status.

The official recalled how the IATF earlier gave the Trade Department, along with the Labor Department and other members of the economic team, leeway on reviewing and finalizing guidelines for further easing restrictions on businesses in GCQ areas, for instance, coupled with the observance of health and safety protocols.

“Within the framework of GCQ, there are ways and means for us to safely reopen the economy some more,” said Nograles.

The National Economic and Development Authority earlier proposed the lowest quarantine classification for the entire nation by March, citing the need to recover from huge economic losses incurred due to the pandemic.

Still, the agency on Tuesday expressed its support for the President’s recent decision.

“The whole of government will work hard, in cooperation with various sectors, to roll out the vaccine so that we can further open the economy,” said acting NEDA Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua.

PCCI: Implement granular MGCQ in cities that are ready

Meanwhile, the country's largest business organization suggested to the national government a per-city approach, instead of per region, in implementing the more relaxed MGCQ in urban areas.

In an interview with CNN Philipppines' The Final Word on Tuesday, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Emeritus George Barcelon said some urban areas in the country are ready to have relaxed quarantine restrictions.

Barcelon added local governments in MGCQ-ready areas will be more responsive in solving poverty and unemployment issues in their jurisdiction, a way to slowly stimulate the country's economy pending the vaccine rollout.

"There's no one size fits all. We can never say the spike in infection will not go up because it is a living organism and it is mutating," Barcelon said.

The PCCI official also emphasized government leaders must rely on factual scientific basis in implementing relaxed quarantine classifications in the country.

"Prior to the availability of vaccines, the government should concentrate also on the treatment. I think that will also boost public confidence," Barcelon added.

Malacañang has yet to announce community quarantine classifications for March.