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Gradual reopening of economy saves jobs – Trade Chief 

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By Alithea De Jesus

After months of long and jarring lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez revealed the improvement in the unemployment rate to 10% in July can be mainly attributed to the gradual reopening of the economy starting May.

“The mindset of the Interagency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) members has also shifted to allowing for the gradual and safe reopening of the economy while strengthening the other approaches in combating the COVID-19 virus such as a more intensive contact tracing, isolation, testing and treatment, and by enjoining the citizenry to follow the minimum health standards. More granular lockdowns will be the approach in addressing the hotspots,” Sec. Lopez said.

While there are now 4.6 million Filipinos still out of work, Lopez pointed out that the IATF together with the LGUs will work even harder for the strong correlation between sectors that have safely reopened and the sectors that registered job generation.

The decrease in unemployment rate corresponds to some 7.5 million jobs restored, including 2.7 million Filipinos returning workers earlier displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic, and 4.9 million workers rejoining the labor force.

“As the government continues to focus balancing saving lives and livelihood, we remain committed to helping provide and sustain the jobs of our fellow workers by pushing for more sectors to reopen while ensuring the adherence to safety health standards,” the Trade Chief said.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) Labor Force Survey data, wholesale and retail trade and the repair of motor vehicles and motorcycle, agriculture and forestry, construction, manufacturing, and transportation and storage were among the sectors that saw the returning of jobs from April to July.

Wholesale and retail trade generated 2.4 million returning jobs, followed by agriculture with 2.1 million jobs while construction recovered 1.25 million jobs, and manufacturing generated 671,000 jobs, as transportation ranked at 5th place with 330,000 returning jobs.

“The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) continues to work with the business community and with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Department of Health (DOH) and the local government units (LGUs) such as the Metro Manila mayors, for the safe reopening of more sectors, as well as in improving facilitating operations of companies and the movement of workers,” Lopez added.

Aside from the safe and gradual reopening of the economy, Sec. Lopez also highlighted government initiatives such as the microfinancing assistance program called COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises, providing zero-interest loans to micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs); and the repurposing of 46 manufacturing companies to produce essential products, producing 57.6 million personal protective equipment (PPE) medical-grade masks and 3 million PPE coveralls every month, and retained 7,450 jobs.

He also noted the Joint Memorandum Circulars between DTI and DOLE on the guidelines on workplace prevention and control of COVID-19, which assisted in allowing more businesses to safely reopen and continue operations while preventing the transmission of the virus.

Additionally, the trade chief also stressed the various livelihood assistance projects, such as online seminars helping both employers and employees adapt to the “New Normal” of the business environment, and assistance and referral programs for returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), and displaced and informal sector workers in coordination with DOLE.

“In the spirit of BUYanihan, we continue to call for the support for our MSMEs through ‘Buy Local, Go Lokal’. For every Filipino product and business, we patronize, we help the jobs and livelihood of our fellow countrymen in this time of the pandemic,” Sec. Lopez said.

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