COVID-19 shuts down 19 firms, lays off 300 workers
More than 300 workers lost their jobs since February as COVID-19 ran roughshod over the tourism sector and despite economic managers’ assessment that the virus’ financial impact overall was “not worrisome.”
After the Economic Development Cluster (EDC) meeting on Tuesday (March 10), Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III told a press briefing that as far as the economy was concerned, the spread of COVID-19 in and out of China was “not a worrisome situation—we’re not teetering on anything.”
The fiscal and monetary space was still “very comfortable” and the government has “a lot of tools in our toolkit to handle these events,” added Dominguez, who is Duterte’s chief economic manager.
Dominguez said the EDC approved an additional P2.92 billion in funding for COVID-19 response, which will cover additional testing, augmentation of contact tracing and surveillance, as well as purchase of protective equipment for medical and healthcare frontliners in the national and local government levels.
But since the COVID-19 reduced tourist arrivals, especially from China where the outbreak started, Labor Assistant Secretary Dominique Rubia-Tutay said 66 firms starting in February either temporarily closed down or implemented flexible arrangements for workers, mostly in Central Luzon and three other regions known for tourism sites.
“There are no or very few tourists,” Tutay said. Battered establishments were mainly hotels, restaurants and a few manufacturers.
In the case of factories, they had explained to the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) that raw materials were delayed or had been subjected to quarantine when the Philippines’ borders were being secured, Tutay said.
Tutay said 47 companies with 4,416 workers had implemented flexible work arrangements, including shorter hours, reduced working days or carrying out forced leaves.
The 19 other establishments which had over 300 employees were expected to be closed until April, June or August, depending on when the businesses themselves expect operations to normalize, Tutay said.
While the Dole shared the projection of the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) that the job losses in the tourism sector due to COVID-19 may be between 30,000 and 60,000 if the outbreak extended until June, Tutay was optimistic that it would not be as bad as the job loss during the 2008-2009 financial crisis which saw some 90,000 jobs disappear.
Dominguez said the job losses due to COVID-19 will be just temporary, a “short-term” loss such that the Philippines’ bid to slash poverty incidence to as low as 11 percent by 2022 would not be affected.
The country’s chief economist, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia, said lower-income households may take a hit if they were afflicted by the disease but said the “resilience of families is usually there.”
Edited by TSB
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