DTI chief hopes Metro Manila mayors, LGUs in Calabarzon to consider relaxing age restriction
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez expressed hope on Monday that Metro Manila mayors and the local government units in Region IV-A or Calabarzon would consider easing the quarantine age restriction even if they are still under the general community quarantine in order for the economy to recover faster.
In a televised press briefing, Lopez stressed the need to balance the health risk and the need to open the economy further.
"Our advice is let us gradually consider the relaxation (of age restriction), especially in areas under GCQ, the NCR (National Capital Region) and the other provinces in Region IV-A, which they account for almost about 30 to 50 percent of the economy even if they are just a few places. That's why it is important that they have to ease a bit the restriction," he explained.
Following the recommendation of the economic team, including the DTI, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease has eased the age restriction to below 10 years old from the current below 15 years old and over 65 years old.
But with the new coronavirus variants in the country, the Department of Health and other health experts have raised concern over the decision of the IATF to lower the age limit for those who could go out.
Lopez said they did not see any problem in relaxing the age restriction for as long as the people continue to follow the health protocols, such as wearing of face mask and face shield and observance of social distancing, among others.
"To me, it's safe to gradually (allow people) to go out. It's safe for as long as they comply (with the health protocols)," he said.
He noted that in commercial centers, physical distancing and other health protocols are being observed because of the staff who always remind the public of the observance of the minimum health standards.
"So, if we are going to look at it, those areas are being monitored more. So, these easing of restriction should be considered because our (economic) numbers are improving," Lopez explained.
He added that lowering the age-based restriction would increase expenditure.
"If the family goes out, they account for about 30 percent to 50 percent of the sales of let's say restaurants or other stores. They account for a big part of the sale. That's why it's important that as a family, they are allowed to go out," he said.
Under the IATF resolution, the easing of quarantine age restriction to below 10 years old is allowed in areas under modified general community quarantine and to be effective on February 1.
But the same resolution urged the LGUs in areas under GCQ to follow the same.
Most Metro Manila mayors, according to Metro Manila Council chairman and Parañaque City Mayor Edwin Olivarez have been opposed to relaxing the age restriction.
But Lopez said, "now that we are seeing the improvement on the health side, we really have to balance it, otherwise, again, the economic side will really suffer."
The Philippine economy was in recession last year due to coronavirus pandemic.
Lopez said that the government's policy of granular lockdown has been working to contain the spread of COVID-19.
"I think the granular lockdown approach is really working for us and generally working on continuous easing of restriction," he added. Celerina Monte/DMS