Bringing back businesses, jobs in the ‘new normal’

By Kris Crismundo

December 31, 2021, 3:18 pm

<p><em>(File photo)</em></p>

(File photo)

MANILA – With nearly two years of facing the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, both public and private sectors have put forward various initiatives to restart businesses and recover jobs.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020, the pandemic still has lingering impacts on businesses and jobs caused by the lockdowns as governments around the world try to mitigate the spread of the virus.

In the Philippines, data from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) showed that closed businesses at the height of the pandemic in March to April 2020 reached 38 percent.

This resulted in job losses, with the record-high 17.6 percent unemployment rate in April last year.

As what DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez and the business community have been saying, “the virus is here to stay” and “we have to live with the virus”.

In 2021, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) re-imposed twice the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ)—the most stringent restriction—in Metro Manila and nearby provinces amid threats of emerging Covid-19 variants such as the Alpha and Delta.

ECQ was re-imposed in late March due to the Alpha variant and in early August due to the more transmissible and highly infectious Delta variant.

Unlike the lockdown in 2020, the IATF expanded the definition of essential sectors which allowed more establishments to open and lesser jobs to shed.

Compared to the 38 percent closed establishments during the first ECQ in 2020, the ECQ with more mobility in the National Capital Region (NCR), Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal or NCR Plus in late March to April this year only registered 16 percent closed businesses.

It improved to 10 percent with the easing of restrictions.

Unemployment rate in April this year was also lower at 8.7 percent compared to a record-high joblessness rate in the same month in 2020. Even with the re-imposition of ECQ in August, unemployment rate settled at 8.1 percent.

As the country was able to bring down Covid-19 cases to less than a thousand a day, the IATF placed the whole nation under Alert Level 2.

Earlier, Lopez said although the economy is yet to operate at a pre-pandemic rate, there have been signs of recovery this year despite the two periods of surges in cases and lockdowns.

The trade chief has been emphasizing the reopening of economic activities to usher the recovery of businesses and jobs.

This year, the DTI continues to roll out its zero-interest and zero-collateral loan called Covid-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) program which had benefitted 137,168 borrowers with a total loan released amounting to PHP6.13 billion, Lopez reported last Tuesday.

The agency has also urged and supported entrepreneurs to adopt digital transformation amid the new normal.

Entrepreneur Rachel Villaflor started venturing in online business amid the pandemic by selling pillow cases in one of the largest online selling platforms.

What started as a hobby, her online shop House of Silk became another source of income for her.

“Since I am just at home and I have more time, I tried sewing pillow cases by hand just for my personal use, then I eventually bought a mini sewing machine and learned to sew,” Villaflor said. “Just three weeks after I launched my online store, due to high demand of orders, I had to tap a textile and garments factory. To date, I sold around 23,000 pieces in one year.”

She is also providing extra income to local tailors as she commissions them to sew pillow cases when the demand is high.

Moreover, to ensure more jobs in the future, the government has been promoting the Philippines as an investment destination.

Data from the DTI showed that as of November this year, combined investment approvals in the Board of Investments (BOI) and Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) reached PHP616 billion.

These investment pledges are expected to generate 70,576 jobs for Filipinos.

Meanwhile, private sector’s contribution to mitigate impacts of Covid-19 also helped in the recovery of businesses and jobs.

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion said the private sector has ordered at least 24 million Covid-19 jabs from AstraZeneca and Moderna alone to help the government in its inoculation program especially for employees and household members of companies.

He added that as more Filipinos become vaccinated, entrepreneurs would be able to keep their businesses open and jobs are available for Filipinos. (PNA)