13 April 2020 - The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), the largest umbrella of business organizations in the country, lends its support to the National Government’s action to extend the period for the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ). The extension of the ECQ is necessary to abate the further rise in number of COVID 19 patients and ensure that the spread of the virus is contained before gradually resuming economic activity.
As discussions on possible triggers for a partial lifting of the ECQ begin, the PCCI respectfully submits its recommendations, which encapsulate key elements to recovery. These are (a) success in epidemic control, (b) resumption of economic activity, and (c) eliminating barriers to the supply chain and the movement of people - all towards rebuilding consumer confidence.
A. Epidemic Control. The ECQ extension of the provides a window for mass testing now that more hospitals and rapid mass testing kits have been accredited and Local Government Units have been directed to put up quarantine centers. The results could improve data and monitoring ability that can help flatten the curve.
B. Resumption of Economic Activity. Critical to recovery is reviving economic activity. In this regard, we PCCI proposed to focus on the following measures as initial activities:
Rehabilitate existing transportation infrastructures. PCCI strongly support the initiative of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to resume railroad projects and maintenance works of the Metro Rapid Transit (MRT). With travel restrictions limiting the use of roads, rails and ports, the ECQ period is the best opportunity for government and its private sector partners to undertake the rehabilitation of existing infrastructure. To reduce the exposure of workers to COVID 19, government and its partners should ensure that workers are at safe physical distance apart while they are onsite.
Prioritize agriculture and manufacturing supply chain-enhancing infrastructure projects. A fiscal stimulus program focused on infrastructure spending will help bring the economy back on track. PCCI agrees with Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez that a priority should be the revival of infrastructure work. In consideration of limited resources, the Build. Build. Build. program should prioritize projects that boost the efficiency of agriculture and manufacturing supply chains.
Refocus growth strategy on the domestic market and aim for food security. With the COVID 19 pandemic putting the global economy and global supply chains in a quandary, it is high time the country develops and takes advantage of its large domestic market. Priority must be given to the development of the agriculture and aquaculture sectors to ensure food security. The dispersion of downstream processing activities in these sectors will bring development to the countrysides, especially the rural areas. Aside from infrastructure support that include farm-to-market roads, irrigation, post-harvest facilities and other related projects, the agriculture and aquaculture sectors must be provided input subsidies and access to research and development and technologies.
Leverage on disruptive technologies to help businesses adapt to the new normal. A disruption in itself, COVID 19 has shown the importance of adapting disruptive technologies to efficiently and quickly adapt to rapid changes in the business environment. Micro and small enterprises (MSEs) must be equipped to leverage on digital platforms to bridge supply chain gaps. Likewise, farmers, fisherfolks, manufacturers and entrepreneurs need end-to-end logistics platform solutions to ensure that their access to markets is unimpeded.
Adapt more flexible arrangements to facilitate MSEs’ access to loans. Special effort need to be made further to assist MSEs to overcome financial difficulties. Most MSEs do not have the expertise to tap into formal credit facilities and it is in this regard that PCCI renews its call on the Bangko Sentral, banks and other financing institutions and the Small Business Corporation (SB Corp.) to simplify the process and make it easier for MSEs to access loans.
C. Eliminate Barriers to Logistics and the Movement of Labor in Essential Sectors. Tight control over the movement of goods have caused delays and cancellations in deliveries and affected the supply of essential commodities in some areas of the country. For companies that were allowed to continue their operations amid the ECQ, restrictions on public transportation have disrupted the mobility of workers and posed additional costs to employers. Many Business Process Outsourcing (BPOs) companies for example, are giving remaining on-site staff temporary accommodations.
In the event that the definition of essential industries is expanded, one of the sectors that must be included is the public transport sector.
Premised on the (future) decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to partially lift the Luzon ECQ, PCCI recommends the partial lifting of the public transport sector in support of the slow but steady journey towards economic normalcy while strictly enforcing social distancing policy. Along this line, PCCI proposes the implementation of a unified cueing and dispatching scheme. Similar to the system in Japan, Singapore and other developed countries, buses must follow a regular trip schedule and have designated stops to allow easier enforcement and monitoring of physical distancing as passengers can be more evenly distributed.
PCCI acknowledges the efforts of the National Government and private enterprises and other development stakeholders in the work they are doing to contain the spread of COVID 19. As the country prepares for the lifting of the ECQ and gradually resume economic activity, government, the private sector and other stakeholders should continue to provide a safe environment for work and for consumption.