DTI backs business groups’ call to ease pandemic-forced mobility curbs

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WITH the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) nearing conclusion, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said the government is yet to decide on its next move, but he hopes to ease restrictions as small businesses continue to struggle amid the pandemic.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said at the Laging Handa briefing on Tuesday that the DTI supports the recent call by a business group to loosen mobility restrictions, but stressed that it will only be done if the situation gets better.

If there is no surge of Covid-19 cases, the trade chief said that quarantine measures in Metro Manila may de-escalate to less restrictive modified ECQ or granular lockdown. The capital region is under ECQ until August 20.

Lopez said that the Covid-19 Inter-Agency Task Force is still monitoring the number of cases before deciding on the next community quarantine measure.

“It is really a balancing act,” Lopez said. “If we keep that mindset, we will be able to save also the livelihood.”

Lopez said the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) continue to face the challenges from the pandemic as their cash flow and working capital have been depleted amid slower business activities.

Others also laid off workers because the businesses can no longer afford to pay for salaries, he added.

Lopez disclosed earlier that the ECQ will increase the number of closed MSMEs to 16 percent.

Prior to the implementation of the strictest lockdown, he said that about 8 to 10 percent of the MSMEs were shut down amid the pandemic-induced crisis.

DTI said easing the restrictions will allow the struggling MSMEs to restore some cash flows.

A business leader recently pushed for the reopening of the economy to help prevent more economic losses and unemployment.

“It’s time we learn that lockdown is not the remedy,” Employers Confederation of the Philippines and Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. President Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. said. Instead, he said that the vaccination program and adherence to health protocols are the necessary measures.

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