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'We Are Struggling Mr. President,' NEDA Chief Tells Duterte as Quarantines Drag

It's not a choice between economy, health.
Mar 24, 2021
Photo/s: Jerome Ascaño
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The Philippine economy is "struggling" after more than a year of quarantines that is causing people to lose jobs and go hungry, one of President Rodrigo Duterte's economic managers reported to him late on Wednesday.

Acting Socioeconomic Planning Sec. Karl Kendrick Chua said the economy started 2020 strong until the March lockdown, which sank the economy into a recession. Chua said gross domestic product could return to growth this year, up to 6.5%.

"Yung ekonomiya natin bago mag-COVID malakas, pero matagal po yung naging quarantine or lockdown natin... We are struggling, Mr. President," Chua said, noting how the Philippine quarantine is among the longest in the world.

"We need to continue managing risks as COVID cases rise... We focus on localized quarantines. We address the highest sources of risks so that yung trabaho, yung kita, tuloy-tuloy," he said.

Chua said the relatively low cases during the Christmas holidays until the first two months of the year showed that the March surge could not be blamed on the reopening of the economy as health protocols were strictly implemented.

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"It's not economy vs. health. It is the total health of the people, whether it is from COVID, non-COVID sickness or from hunger," Chua said.

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Cases surged in March, peaking at 8,000 in a single day last week. Authorities blamed this on the emergence of more contagious variants. This prompted a GCQ Bubble with stricter rules in Metro Manila, Laguna, Rizal, Cavite and Bulacan.

Chua reported to the president that the quarantines resulted to hunger being felt by 3.2 million people in Metro Manila, roughly a third of the region's population. Half a million lost their jobs.

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Restrictions in GCQ areas result in P700 million in lost earnings of employees, driving some to debt, he said.

On the average, every working Filipino in 2020 lost an average of P23,000. The number also hides the wide disparity in society, he said.

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