Lopez: Easing age limits in MGCQ areas to buoy economy
Lowering the minimum age for people allowed to go to public places such as malls is expected to increase private consumption and bring economic activities across the country closer to prepandemic levels, according to Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez.
Lopez on Friday told reporters the new policy related to opening the virus-hit economy enjoyed broad support in the Interagency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).
“Both the Department of Trade (DTI) and Industry and the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) [argued] to justify the need to ease restrictions to allow the economy to recover,” he said.
“We (DTI and Neda) were supported by most agencies [and eventually] by all because [we decided based on] consensus,” Lopez added.
Before this, only people aged 18 years to 65 years were allowed to move freely, albeit still subject to certain conditions.
In a radio interview, Lopez said “based on our surveys,” allowing children as young as 10 years old to leave their homes—in areas under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ)—could help increase business sales in commercial areas like malls by double or triple.
The Trade chief said this was because 30 percent to 50 percent of sales in these areas could be attributed to family spending.
“When grown-ups are with their kids, they spend more because they tend to buy more stuff and they dine as a family,” Lopez said.
“Secondly, parents tend to go out more if they can bring their kids along, not having to worry about who will watch the kids at home if they needed to go out,” he added.
Citing government data, he said the domestic economy saw improvement when quarantine restrictions were eased in July and August last year.
“But we are still far from pre-COVID levels,” he said. “Unemployment has gone down to [single-digit at] 8.7 percent but [still high] compared to 5 percent before the pandemic. There are still millions who have yet to rejoin those who are employed.”
Based on the latest policy of the IATF, Metro Manila, Santiago City in Isabela province, Batangas, Tacloban City, Iligan City, Lanao del Sur, Davao City and Davao del Norte remained under general community quarantine (GCQ). The rest of the country is under MGCQ.
Lopez said as a compromise, the lowering of age restriction would be implemented gradually and initially only in MGCQ areas.
“But for GCQ areas, we are giving local government leaders the option to follow suit depending on their reading of the health situation in their [respective jurisdictions],” he added.
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