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NEDA chief proposes modified ‘lockdown’

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The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) proposes a “modified lockdown” to ensure smoother delivery of basic goods and allow some businesses to reopen and serve communities.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and NEDA director-general Ernesto Pernia said the restrictions on the entry of cargoes of fresh produce and other agricultural goods from the provinces should be eased to support agricultural activity and ensure sufficient food supply while a quarantine aimed at containing the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is in effect.

“In areas like Calabarzon and Central Luzon and certain areas in the upper north of Luzon, many of them are agricultural provinces. The transport of goods from Benguet, the movement is still restricted. And so that can be eased a bit,” said Pernia.

Businesses crucial to the manufacture of essential goods should also be allowed to resume operations to satisfy demand.

“Some manufacturing industries need to come back to life in terms of production and other retail businesses that would be useful in this time of limited consumption on the part of the population,” said Pernia. “Also, manufacturing for export. We need to revive that particular sector.”

Businesses that would be allowed to reopen should have shuttle services for their workers. Rule on social distancing should be strictly enforced.

President Duterte has approved the extension of the quarantine until April 30.

This was meant to further contain the spread of COVID-19, as the health sector steps up efforts to increase its capacity to embark on massive testing beginning on April 14.

Pernia said earlier that there must be balance between the health and economic objectives of community quarantine to prevent further damage to the economy and stave off a social crisis.

The prevailing Luzon-wide quarantine, which began on March 17, has forced numerous businesses to shut down, displacing hundreds of thousands of workers.

The government’s decision to extend the community quarantine by two more weeks has been generally welcomed.

Senators said they are in favor of Duterte’s decision but emphasized the emergency cash assistance to the poor and other vulnerable sectors must be extended to three months.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the government must immediately roll out the national ID system, whose implementation has been delayed for a year, to greatly help speed up the delivery of cash grants to the poor.

Sotto said under Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, the social amelioration programs can be extended from two months as envisioned by the law to three months.

“If our economy does not appear to be recovering in three months, the amelioration program may be extended to another month. The National ID System has been there since over a year ago, they should do a fast break,” Sotto said.

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