March 22, 2021

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) supports the localized quarantine measures in areas showing high transmission rates as directed by Resolution No. 104 of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

“We recognize the risks associated with the recent spike in COVID-19 cases but reverting back to a stricter and blanket community quarantine is no longer an option knowing how much it has cost the Filipino people in the past year. That is why a careful and calibrated approach is needed to address the sources of highest risks through localized quarantines and additional restrictions, so that jobs or livelihoods will not be affected,” said Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua.

“The issue is not simply economy versus health. It is about addressing the total health of our people, whether from COVID, non-COVID sickness, or hunger. Rest assured that the government’s goal, first and foremost, is to save lives,” Chua added.

The NEDA chief explained that the relaxation of quarantine restrictions from April to October 2020 helped restore six million jobs. At the time, stricter compliance with health standards allowed for a safe reopening of the economy without causing a spike in cases in the last quarter of 2020, allowing more Filipinos to earn income and feed their families.

“However, the recent surge in the number of cases compels us to act swiftly to slow down the infection rate. In order to save lives from COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 threats, the IATF recommended to add restrictions in specific areas without constraining the overall mobility of people,” Chua said.

“Over the next two weeks, we will strengthen the implementation of the ‘Prevent, Detect, Isolate, Treat, and Recover’ or PDITR strategy and continue rolling out the vaccination program. We have already started inoculating our medical front liners last March 1, 2021 and we aim to provide vaccines to at least 70 million Filipinos this year, or around 100 percent of the entire adult population.  We will do all of this while ensuring that majority of the people can still safely work, earn a living, and access basic services while adhering to minimum health and safety standards,” Chua added.

The country has been in varying levels of quarantine over the past year. As a result, an estimated 16.4 million people have experienced hunger nationwide. In NCR alone, 3.2 million individuals or 1 in 4 people are hungry. There are also 506,000 jobless people.

“We need to consider that strict quarantines previously imposed entailed huge income losses and hardships, especially among the poor. The IATF Resolution No. 104 allows key businesses and services to operate, instead of imposing a blanket and prolonged community quarantine which could cost some 2.1 billion pesos in wages daily,” Chua emphasized.

Chua also mentioned that the focus on COVID-19 has also shifted attention away from other critical sicknesses and diseases. According to the results of a preliminary study from the Center for Global Development, PhilHealth claims for high burden diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and hypertension have dropped by 75 percent during the pandemic. This means that majority of the people are deferring health treatment due to lack of resources for healthcare, mobility restrictions, or the fear of getting infected in hospitals.

“We assure the public that the IATF is committed to aggressively pursuing solutions to manage risks and swiftly control the increase in COVID-19 cases, without restraining the economy at the expense of the most vulnerable in our population,”  Chua said.