MANILA - The government is studying to expand the allowed operating capacity of businesses in Metro Manila and the Southern Tagalog Region (Calabarzon), the main economic drivers of the country, even while virus restrictions are still in place, the Philippines' trade chief said Thursday.
Industries operating at a limited capacity in the two regions may soon be allowed to expand their operations despite prevailing community quarantine measures to resuscitate the economy, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said.
"Ito ang mga pwedeng consideration - working on the business operating capacity instead of changing the quarantine level," he said in a virtual press briefing.
He cited as example salons and restaurants operating at 30 percent capacity that may soon be allowed to run at 50 percent.
Barbershops and salons employ some 400,000 workers, while restaurants and hotels have some 1.7 million employees, according to the trade chief.
"General direction is basically to reopen the economy, although gradually lang," Lopez said.
The capital region remains under general community quarantine until July 15 along with neighboring provinces Cavite and Rizal.
The rest of the Southern Tagalog Region--namely Laguna, Batangas, and Quezon--meanwhile have transitioned to a more relaxed modified GCQ.
The NCR and CALABARZON have the largest share of the country's economy, with the former accounting for a third of the gross domestic product, followed by the latter which serves as home to several economic zones and industrial plants.
At present, Lopez said about 95 percent of industries are already operational in the two regions, with the remaining non-operational sectors representing leisure businesses.
Following the further easing of lockdowns this month, the government has geared its coronavirus response to restoring economic confidence and activity after the country's economy shrank in the first quarter, the first in 22 years.
Unemployment also ballooned to a record 17.7 percent which translates to 7.3 million jobless Filipinos.