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Labor-intensive sectors must resume ops as number of displaced local workers reach 2M —senators

Some senators expressed support for the idea of opening the agriculture, construction, and manufacturing sectors to prevent the adverse economic impact caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis in the Philippines.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon agreed that the said labor-intensive sectors must resume operations after April 30, "subject to social distancing and DOH guidelines and protocols."

"The social unrest that could result from 2 million workers unemployed for the past 6 weeks is a reality we face," Drilon said in a message Monday.

"From the economic standpoint, I am extremely concerned of the further damage to our economy by the continued lockdown of the agriculture, manufacturing, and construction sectors. These are essential industries," he added.

Mass testing of the workers in the said industries must be conducted at the same time to ensure their safety, according to Drilon.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto also agreed but underscored that the economy shall open "little by little."

"Employers must protect their workers and consumers by adopting protocols on disinfecting workplace, testing, social distancing, and wearing masks," he said.

He also projects that unemployment will rise due to consumers' confidence issues and that investors will have a "wait and see attitude."

"Government must improve its health capability to improve consumer and investor confidence as well," Recto said.

Senator Cynthia Villar acknowledged that while agriculture remains in "full swing," many of its forward linkages have closed down amid the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine.

She also underscored that daily wage earners in the construction and manufacturing industries are compensated on a "no work, no pay" basis.

"We should remember that 70% of the gross domestic product of the Philippines is in NCR, Calabarzon, and Central Luzon. And if we do not practice partial lockdown in these areas, we lose 70% of our gross domestic products," Villar said in a statement Sunday.

The said regions were among the high-risk areas placed under an extended enhanced community quarantine until May 15.

Twenty-two percent of the workers in the country are in agriculture, while 10 percent are employed in manufacturing, and 10 percent are in the construction sector, according to Villar.

Citing a US study which showed that coronavirus dies faster in hot and humid weather, Villar further said that agriculture and construction workers—provided that they wear protective gear and follow health protocols—have lower risks of getting COVID-19 because they work in open spaces and are exposed to sunlight.

According to the Department of Labor and Employment, over two million workers in the country have experienced job displacement because of the strict quarantine protocols that were implemented amid the health crisis.

Last week, the Inter-Agency Task Force handling the COVID-19 response announced that areas with lower risks of having an outbreak will be placed under a relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ).

Among the industries that could resume full operations in GCQ areas starting May 1 are agriculture, fisheries, food manufacturing, food retail, logistics, and media.

On the other hand, manufacturing of electronics and exports, e-commerce and delivery for essential and non-essential items, repair and maintenance services, housing, and office services may operate at 50 to 100% capacity.

Public transportation would also resume at reduced capacity in GCQ areas.

As of April 26, the Philippine recorded a total of 7,579 cases of COVID-19, with 501 deaths and 862 recoveries.—AOL, GMA News