Duterte to decide on lockdown easing with economy, jobs at stake

Arianne Merez, Jamaine Punzalan and Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 28 2020 01:20 PM | Updated as of May 28 2020 11:23 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte updates the nation on the government's efforts in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on April 6, 2020. Ace Morandante, Presidential Photo/file

MANILA (UPDATE) -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will on Thursday decide on a recommendation to further ease one of the world's longest lockdowns, a move that could salvage the economy and cap job losses.

The 75-year-old leader will announce his decision in a televised address, his spokesman said. The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) had recommended a shift to the general community quarantine in Metro Manila by June 1.

"This is really a compromise, the need to resume the reopening of the economy and the need to contain further the spread of COVID-19," Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Thursday.

The shift to GCQ from a modified enhanced community quarantine will allow more businesses to reopen, limited public transport, and limited flights.

"Haharap po muli ang ating Presidente Rodrigo Roa Duterte mamayang gabi para malaman na natin kung anong mangyayari sa atin pagdating ng a-1 ng Hunyo," Roque said.

(The President will face the nation tonight to tell us what will happen by June 1.)

The Philippine capital, home to roughly a tenth of the country's 100 million people and which accounts for a third of the economy, has endured one of the world's longest and toughest lockdowns which caused the first GDP contraction in 22 years.

With the proposed easing of restrictions, Roque reminded the public that community quarantine protocols such as checkpoints would remain in place.

"Hindi naman po completely mawawala yung ating existing responses to make sure na hindi naman po balik sa normal tayo. Patuloy pa rin po yan habang tayo ay may community quarantine," Roque said.

(Our existing responses will continue to make sure that we won't regress while we are in community quarantine.)

Senate President Vicente Sotto and Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri both filed measures seeking to rescue the economy from the pandemic.

The country's largest fast food operator Jollibee and oil refiner Petron both reported billions of pesos in first-quarter losses as the lockdown kept consumers indoors.

Casino-resort Okada Manila said Wednesday it would lay off some 1,000 workers, citing "severe losses" from the coronavirus lockdown that shuttered its operations.

Some 2.6 million Filipinos have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Unemployment could rise to over 5 million due to the pandemic, the Department of Labor and Employment earlier said.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said the IATF recommended that Metro Manila shift to a more relaxed GCQ.

"Ito (rekomendasyon) ay ang paglilipat ng mga lugar na from GCQ ay magiging modfied GCQ at iba namang modified ECQ ay mapupunta na sa GCQ lalong-lalo na ang Metro Manila," Año told Teleradyo.

(I think the President will decide tonight. The recommendation is to move areas from GCQ to modified GCQ. Others that are under modified ECQ will shift to GCQ, especially Metro Manila.) 

Under the GCQ, "high-risk" barangays that will log more than 2 new cases of new COVID-19 in 7-day monitoring will be deemed "critical zones," Año said.

Recent COVID-19 data showed that the National Capital Region is "ready" to transition to a GCQ, Roque said.

"Well NCR is ready based on the data we've seen but that really depends on the cooperation of everyone," Roque said.