The spikes in COVID-19 cases should not be an outright excuse to go slow on reopening the Philippine economy. Restricting economic activities is not a guarantee that the pandemic cases will decline. The virus is here to stay until a vaccine to stop it is discovered.
President Rodrigo Duterte was circumspect in his response to suggestions to fully reopen the economy. The Philippine economy cannot fully reopen because there are certain sectors that will not be able operate within the social distancing rules of health authorities.
Mr. Duterte favored a slow reopening amid the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, mentioning the examples of the United States, Brazil, Japan or Korea. Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, on the other hand, cited a need to strike a “reasonable balance between safeguarding public health and restarting the economy.”
Palace spokesperson Harry Roque, meanwhile, said the Philippines had to partially reopen the economy or people would have died from a lack of livelihood.
President Duterte and his two Cabinet officials do not differ much on the issue of reopening the economy. The three support the move to restart the economy. Their divergence lies on how fast the economy should reopen.
Mr. Dominguez himself is not going all-out to reopen the economy quickly. But Filipinos, he says, cannot keep retreating from the virus at the cost of their livelihoods, especially in Metro Manila and the Cavite-Laguna Batangas-Rizal-Quezon (CALABARZON) region that collectively account for 67 percent of the domestic economy.
Mr. Dominguez has favored a select reopening of the CALABARZON and the capital regions for obvious reasons, stressing the stark reality that COVID-19 will not just go away. Filipinos, he says, must get back to work while staying safe.
The finance chief added the government would not take the threat posed by COVID-19 lightly, as it must continue protecting lives in ways that do not prevent people from earning a living.
The long queues in train stations and bus stops speak volumes about the determination of Filipino workers to reclaim their jobs. They need work to feed their families. It is simple economics.