MECQ extension? Palace says economy unable to stand another lockdown

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 04 2020 04:19 PM

Passengers flock to the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange on August 3, 2020, before Metro Manila and neighboring provinces are placed on Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ). Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA-- The Philippine economy is unable to stand another strict lockdown, Malacañang said Tuesday as the capital region and nearby urban hubs transitioned to a stricter community quarantine for half a month on the appeal of medical workers.

The reversion of Metro Manila, Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite, and Rizal to modified enhanced community quarantine is a "compromise" to the call of health care workers for a "timeout" and an opportunity for the government to recalibrate its COVID-19 pandemic response strategy, Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque said.

But while the MECQ is expected to help slow the spread of the virus, it is also expected to take a toll on the livelihood of Filipinos as nearly 70 percent of the economy is based in the capital region and surrounding provinces.

"Tatapatin ko na po kayo na hindi na po kaya ng ekonomiya ang mas matagalan pang lockdown Lalabas po ang pigura ng second quarter GDP (growth domestic product) growth natin, napakatindi po ng ibinaba ng ating ekonomiya,” Roque said.

(I will be honest. Our economy could no longer stand a longer lockdown. The second-quarter GDP will come out and our economy really shrank.)

"Mahirap na mahirap na po ang mangyayari sa ating ekonomiya kung magla-lockdown tayo muli," he added.

(Our economy will suffer if we will go on lockdown again.)

The economy contracted by 0.2 percent in the January-to-March period, the first time since 1998, due to the impact of COVID-19 and resulting lockdowns. 

Second-quarter GDP could be worse, officials said, as it would cover the majority of the time the lockdowns were imposed to stem the spread of the disease. 

The economic growth for the "most difficult" quarter will be reported on Thursday, Aug. 6, while the reversion to MECQ is expected to last until Aug. 18 after President Rodrigo Duterte approved the plea of healthcare workers.

Roque admitted that the government has yet to find a way to provide aid to poor families in areas that were again placed under strict lockdown.

"Ang problema po ngayon sa 2 linggo na lockdown, saan po makakakuha ng ayuda dahil nga po wala nang batas naipasa ang Kongreso, sana po maihabol 'yan sa Bayanihan 2," he said, referring to the proposed measure on economic recovery.

(The problem for these 2 weeks of lockdown is where to get aid because Congress has yet to pass a measure on it but we hope it could be included in Bayanihan 2.)

"Hindi po ganun kadali ang desisyon na mag-lockdown. Ang nais lang po natin ngayon talaga ay ingatan po natin ang ating kalusugan para tayo ay makapaghanapbuhay," he added.

(The decision to impose a lockdown is not easy. What we want now is for people to take care of their health so we can continue to work.)